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About the Balalaika

Russian Balalaika    The balalaika is a stringed instrument that emerged in the 15th Century in Russia. The balalaika is unique that it has a triangular body and 3 strings (or sometimes 6, in 3 pairs). The strings on the balalaika are usually plucked by the fingers but it can also be played with a plectrum (pick). There are many different types of Balalaikas, which are (ordered from smallest to largest in size):

  • piccolo
  • prima
  • secunda
  • alto
  • bass
  • contrabass

The most common balalaika is the prima.

How to tune a Balalaika

How to tune a Balalaika

Tuning a Balalaika

The Prima

    The most common balalaika is the prima, which is tuned to EEA (The 2nd and 3rd string are tuned to the same note). Sometimes the balalaika is tuned "guitar style" to GBD (mimicking the three highest strings of the Russian guitar), making it a little bit easier to play for Russian guitarists, although balalaika purists frown on this tuning.


The Secunda

    The Secunda Balalaika is tuned to AAD: (1st string: D in first octave) - (2nd string: A in minor octave) - (3rd string A in minor octave) The 2nd and 3rd string are tuned to the same note.


The Alto

    The Alto Balalaika is tuned to EEA: (1st string: A in minor octave) - (2nd string: E in minor octave) - (3rd string: E in minor octave) The 2nd and the 3rd string are tuned to the same pitch.


The Bass and Contrabass

    The Bass and Contrabass Balalaika are tuned in the same fashion, just the Contrabass is bigger. They are tuned to EAD: (1st string: D in minor octave) - (2nd string: A in major octave) - (3rd string: E in major octave)


Tuning 6 String Balalaikas

    I mentioned earlier that there are some six string balalaikas. Basically they are tuned the same fashion that 3 stringed balalaikas are tuned. The difference with 6 string balalaikas is that they have two strings for each one on a regular. For example a 3 stringed prima balalaika is tuned to E-E-A. A 6 stringed prima balalaika would be tune to EE-EE-AA. They are set up in pairs tuned to the same note to produce a harmonizing effect similar to the mandolin.


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