Balalaika: description of the instrument, structure, history, how it sounds, types

Balalaika: description of the instrument, structure, history, how it sounds, types

The phrase “Russian folk instrument” immediately brings to mind the perky balalaika. The unpretentious object comes from a distant past, so distant that it is impossible to determine exactly when it appeared, continues to delight music lovers to this day.

What is balalaika

The balalaika is called a plucked musical instrument belonging to the category of folk. Today it is a whole family, including five main varieties.

Balalaika: description of the instrument, structure, history, how it sounds, types

Tool device

Consists of the following elements:

  • body, triangular, flat in front, rounded, having 5-9 wedges behind;
  • strings (the number is always equal – three pieces);
  • voice box – a round hole in the middle of the body, on the front side;
  • neck – a wooden long plate along which the strings are located;
  • frets – thin strips located on the fretboard, changing the tone of the sounding strings (number of frets – 15-24);
  • shoulder blades – the details crowning the neck, with an attached mechanism for string tension.

The above elements are a small part that make up a piece of music. The total number of tool parts exceeds 70.

The structure of the balalaika and the guitar has similar features. Both instruments are stringed and plucked. But the structure, features of use indicate the differences of the guitar:

  • body shape;
  • number of strings;
  • dimensions;
  • manner of performance;
  • difference in structure.

Balalaika: description of the instrument, structure, history, how it sounds, types


The sound of the balalaika is sonorous, loud, high, rather soft. Suitable for accompanists, does not exclude soloing.

Varieties differ in size, purpose, sound. Professionals have many techniques for extracting sound. The most common: rattling, vibrato, tremolo, fractions.

Build balalaika

Initially, the balalaika and the system remained incompatible concepts. The instrument was used by amateurs who had no idea about the musical system. In the XNUMXth century, all varieties became part of the orchestra, several tuning options appeared:

  • Academic structure. The note “mi”, formed by sounding in unison of the two initial strings, the note “la” – by the third string. The system has become widespread among concert balalaika players.
  • People’s system. Sol (initial string), Mi (second string), Do (third string). The most common type of folk system. There are several dozen in total: each region has its own method of tuning the instrument.
  • Quantum unison system. Represents the sound of prima balalaika strings, is described by the La-Mi-Mi formula (from the first string to the third).
  • Quarter system. Inherent in balalaikas of the form second, bass, double bass, viola. Tones alternate as follows: Re-La-Mi.

Balalaika: description of the instrument, structure, history, how it sounds, types

Balalaika history

The history of the appearance of the balalaika cannot be unambiguously told. There are different versions of the origin. The official mention dates back to the XNUMXth century; a popular favorite appeared much earlier.

One theory links the origin story to Asian countries. There existed a similar instrument – domra, similar in size, sound, appearance, structure.

Probably, during the time of the Tatar-Mongol yoke, the inhabitants of Russia borrowed the principles of creating domra, somewhat altered, having received a fundamentally new item.

The second version says: the invention is primordially Russian. Who came up with it is unknown. The name corresponds to the concepts of “talking”, “talking” (quickly talking). Specific strumming sounds really resemble a lively conversation.

The attitude to the subject was not serious, evoked associations with the illiterate peasant class. Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich made attempts to get rid of popular fun. The idea failed: after the death of the sovereign, the “balabolka” instantly spread among the peasants.

Ancient devices outwardly differed from their contemporaries, often looked ridiculous. The peasants made the instrument with improvised means: ladles served as the body, animal veins served as strings.

Balalaika: description of the instrument, structure, history, how it sounds, types

The popularity of the people’s favorite in the XIX century is replaced by oblivion. The musical product gained a second wind through the efforts of an amazing person – a nobleman V. Andreev, a musician by profession. The man created a family of balalaikas, including five representatives. Andreev invented the modern balalaika of the familiar today’s look.

The performance of the balalaika ensemble, arranged by Andreev, marked the era of the revival of the instrument. Well-known composers wrote music specifically for the orchestra of folk instruments, balalaika concerts were a success, populists, along with Russia, were applauded by Europe. There were world celebrities at concerts, standing ovation to Russian virtuosos.

Since then, the balalaika has been strengthening its position, remaining a popular instrument.

Varieties of balalaikas and their names

Professional musicians distinguish the following types of balalaikas:

  • Balalaika-prima. Dimensions 67-68 cm. The only one that is ideal for solo musicians. The main parts of the Russian folk orchestra are written specifically for prima.
  • Second. The length is 74-76 cm. Purpose – accompaniment, play with chords, intervals.
  • Alto. Length 80-82 cm. It has a soft, juicy timbre. Performs functions similar to a second.
  • Bass. Belongs to the bass group. Plays in a big octave. A distinctive feature is a low timbre. Size – 112-116 cm.
  • Double bass. Difference from bass: plays contract. It is the most bulky instrument of the line – 160-170 cm long. To keep the giant upright, a stand is provided below.

Balalaika: description of the instrument, structure, history, how it sounds, types

The above varieties are included in the orchestra of folk instruments. Left behind the scenes is the smallest balalaika, invented by V. Andreev, called the Piccolo balalaika. According to the author’s idea, the main function is to emphasize the upper register of a piece of music.


The musical product is popular due to its versatility, the ability to harmonize perfectly with all kinds of instrument groups. The main field of application is orchestras of folk instruments. There are virtuosos who play solo, in duets.

How to choose a balalaika

Making music will be a pleasure if you choose the right instrument:

  • The appearance of the neck: no distortion, cracks, chips, medium thickness (not thick, not thin). The best material is ebony.
  • Frets. Attention is paid to grinding, location at the same height. You can check the quality of grinding by lightly rubbing the surface of the frets. The best material is nickel.
  • Frame. The flat part of the case is necessarily made of spruce, completely flat, bends, concavity are unacceptable.
  • Strings. The purity of the system, the timbre depend on this part. Too thin produce a weak, inexpressive, rattling sound. Thick ones make it difficult to use the subject, require extra effort, deprive the melody of melody.
  • Sound. A correctly chosen instrument produces a full, pleasant sound that does not break off abruptly, fading gradually.

Balalaika: description of the instrument, structure, history, how it sounds, types

Interesting Facts

Antique items have a vivid history, a lot of interesting facts:

  • The oldest exhibit adorns the museum of the city of Ulyanovsk. The item is over 120 years old.
  • The official “Balalaika Day” appeared in 2008 and is celebrated on June 23rd.
  • There is a folk instrument orchestra in Japan. The participants are Japanese, masterfully owning the Russian folk instrument.
  • Previously, there were two-string products instead of three-string ones.
  • Khabarovsk is the city that erected the highest monument to the balalaika: a huge yellow monument measuring 12 meters.
  • This ancient piece of music has become a symbol of Russia and is a fashionable souvenir.
  • In Ancient Russia, the Play was played by buffoons, shepherds – people who were not burdened with work and household.
  • The origin of the object is shrouded in mystery: the year of appearance is not known, the name of the craftsman who invented it remains a mystery.

Balalaika is a universal instrument capable of playing any piece of music: classical, folk, funny, sad. It is played by amateurs, professionals, even children. Fervent, specific sounds cannot be confused with something: a small piece of music has become a real symbol of a vast country, absorbed the mentality of the Russian people.

Алексей Архиповский - Золушка Нереально космическая музыка, меняющая все представление о балалайке.

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