Balalaika Orchestra Instruments

balalaikaThe balalaika belongs to a family of lutes originally developed in Central Asia. It remained mainly a folk instrument until the late 19th century, when a Russian nobleman, Vasili V. Andreyev, standardized the balalaika by creating a range of sizes with standard tunings. This led the way to the development of a classical tradition, and now the balalaika is one of the most important plucked stringed instruments in Eastern Europe and Russia. The balalaika has three strings and can be found in several sizes: contrabass, bass, alto, secunda, prima, and piccolo. The most commonly played is prima, but the American Balalaika Symphony includes musicians specializing in all sizes but piccolo.

domraThe domra is similar to the balalaika, although the domra is round while the balalaika is triangular. Otherwise they share the same folk tradition and were both standardized in the late 19th century. Generally, in a balalaika symphony, the domras will play the melody while the balalaika plays the chords and the bass line. The domra can be of the three-string or four-string variety, and the different sizes are: bass, tenor, alto, prima, piccolo.

bayanThe bayan is very similar to an accordian, but instead of piano keys on the left side, there is a second row of buttons. The internal reed structure is also different.

gusliThe gusli is an ancient Russian instrument resembling a harp. The type often used in balalaika orchestras is the keyboard gusli. In this version, the harp apparatus is set into a table, and on the left side is a one-octave set of piano keys. These allow the player to adjust the notes plucked on the harp strings.