The balalaika (Russian: балала́йка, pronounced [bəɫɐˈɫajkə]) is a Russian stringed musical instrument with a characteristic triangular wooden, hollow body, fretted neck and three strings. Two strings are usually tuned to the same note and the third string is a perfect fourth higher. The higher-pitched balalaikas are used to play melodies and chords. The instrument generally has a short sustain, necessitating rapid strumming or plucking when it is used to play melodies. Balalaikas are often used for Russian folk music and dancing.
The balalaika family of instruments includes instruments of various sizes, from the highest-pitched to the lowest: the piccolo balalaika, prima balalaika, secunda balalaika, alto balalaika, bass balalaika, and contrabass balalaika. There are balalaika orchestras which consist solely of different balalaikas; these ensembles typically play Classical music that has been arranged for balalaikas. The prima balalaika is the most common; the piccolo is rare. There have also been descant and tenor balalaikas, but these are considered obsolete. All have three-sided bodies; spruce, evergreen, or fir tops; and backs made of three to nine wooden sections (usually maple).
The prima balalaika, secunda and alto are played either with the fingers or a plectrum (pick), depending on the music being played, and the bass and contrabass (equipped with extension legs that rest on the floor) are played with leather plectra. The rare piccolo instrument is usually played with a pick.
The earliest mention of the term balalaika dates back to a 1688 Russian document. Another appearance of the word is registered in a document from the Verkhotursky district of Russia, dated October 1700. It is also mentioned in a document dated 1714 and signed by Peter the Great regarding the wedding celebrations of N.M. Zotov in Saint Petersburg. In the Ukrainian language the word was first documented in the 18th century as "balabaika"; this form is also present in South Russian dialects and the Belarusian language, as well as in Siberian Russia. It made its way into literature and first appeared in "Elysei", a 1771 poem by V. Maykov. "Balalaika" also appears in Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls, written between 1837 and 1842.
Factory-made six-string prima balalaikas with three sets of double courses are also common. These have three double courses similar to the stringing of the mandolin and often use a "guitar" tuning.
An important part of balalaika technique is the use of the left thumb to fret notes on the lower string, particularly on the prima, where it is used to form chords. Traditionally, the side of the index finger of the right hand is used to sound notes on the prima, while a plectrum is used on the larger sizes.
Because of the large size of the contrabass's strings, it is not uncommon to see players using plectra made from a leather shoe or boot heel. Bass and contrabass balalaikas rest on the ground, on a wooden or metal pin that is drilled into one of its corners.
It is possible that the emergence and evolution of the balalaika was a product of interaction with Asian-Oriental cultures. In addition to European culture, early Russian states, also called Rus' or Rusi, were also influenced by Oriental-Asian cultures. Some theories say that the instrument is descended from the domra, an instrument from the East Slavs. In the Caucasus, similar instruments such as the Mongolian topshur, used in Kalmykia, and the Panduri used in Georgia are played. It is also similar to the Kazakh dombra, which has two strings. Variants of the dombra played by the Bashkirs often have 3 strings and may represent an instrument related to both the dombra and the balalaika.
Early representations of the balalaika show it with anywhere from two to six strings. Similarly, frets on earlier balalaikas were made of animal gut and tied to the neck so that they could be moved around by the player at will (as is the case with the modern saz, which allows for the playing distinctive to Turkish and Central Asian music).
The first known document mentioning the instrument dates back to 1688. A guard's logbook from the Moscow Kremlin records that two commoners were stopped from playing the Balalaika whilst drunk. Further documents from 1700 and 1714 also mention the instrument. In the early 18th century the term appeared in Ukrainian documents, where it sounded like "Balabaika". Balalaika appeared in "Elysei", a 1771 poem by V. Maikov. In the 19th century, the balalaika evolved into a triangular instrument with a neck that was substantially shorter than that of its Asian counterparts. It was popular as a village instrument for centuries, particularly with the skomorokhs, sort of free-lance musical jesters whose tunes ridiculed the Tsar, the Russian Orthodox Church, and Russian society in general.
In the 1880s, Vasily Vasilievich Andreyev, who was then a professional violinist in the music salons of St Petersburg, developed what became the standardized balalaika, with the assistance of violin maker V. Ivanov. The instrument began to be used in his concert performances. A few years later, St. Petersburg craftsman Paserbsky further refined the instruments by adding a fully chromatic set of frets and also a number of balalaikas in orchestral sizes with the tunings now found in modern instruments. One of the reasons why the instruments were not standardised, was because people in the outlying areas built their own instruments because there was so little communication for them. There were no roads and weather conditions were generally bad. Andreyev patented the design and arranged numerous traditional Russian folk melodies for the orchestra. He also composed a body of concert pieces for the instrument.
The end result of Andreyev's labours was the establishment of an orchestral folk tradition in Tsarist Russia, which later grew into a movement within the Soviet Union. The balalaika orchestra in its full form consists of balalaikas, domras, gusli, bayan, Vladimir Shepherd's Horns, garmoshkas and several types of percussion instruments.
With the establishment of the Soviet system and the entrenchment of a proletarian cultural direction, the culture of the working classes (which included that of village labourers) was actively supported by the Soviet establishment. The concept of the balalaika orchestra was adopted wholeheartedly by the Soviet government as something distinctively proletarian (that is, from the working classes) and was also deemed progressive. Significant amounts of energy and time were devoted to support and foster the formal study of the balalaika, from which highly skilled ensemble groups such as the Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra emerged. Balalaika virtuosi such as Boris Feoktistov and Pavel Necheporenko became stars both inside and outside the Soviet Union. The movement was so powerful that even the renowned Red Army Choir, which initially used a normal symphonic orchestra, changed its instrumentation, replacing violins, violas, and violoncellos with orchestral balalaikas and domras.
Often musicians perform solo on the balalaika. In particular, Alexey Arkhipovsky is well known for his solo performances. In particular, he was invited to play at the opening ceremony of the second semi final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 in Moscow because the organizers wanted to give a "more Russian appearance" to the contest.
Through the 20th century, interest in Russian folk instruments grew outside of Russia, likely as a result of western tours by Andreyev and other balalaika virtuosi early in the century. Significant balalaika associations are found in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Seattle.
A balalaika is a stringed musical instrument, belonging to the lute family, that is used mostly in Russian folk music. Traditionally, they have a triangular body made of wood such as spruce, evergreen, fir, or maple, and many have beautifully decorated tops. Russian guitars have a fretted neck, and most have three strings. Several other variations have six, four, or sometimes just one cord. This musical instrument comes in many different sizes from the high-pitched piccolo all the way to the bass and contrabass balalaika. In order to produce music, the player plucks the strings with their fingers or uses a plectrum made of leather.
Although the exact origins are unknown, it is said that in the 1800s, the Russian guitar descended from another stringed instrument that is called a domra. The domra is a round-bodied and long-necked instrument that originated in the Caucasus region of Russia. The name balalaika is similar to a Russian word meaning babble or chatter, referring to the jabbering sound the guitar produces when played.
As with other guitars, the balalaika needs regular tuning. In order for it to produce the intended tones, you should check the tuning of your instrument every time you play it. How to tune this musical instrument depends on which type you own. Most have either three or six strings. From the highest-pitched to the lowest toned instrument, the order is: piccolo, prima, secunda, alto, bass, and contrabass balalaika.
The balalaika is a musical instrument from Russia. The Balalaika family includes the piccolo balalaika, prima balalaika, sekunda balalaika, alto balalaika, bass balalaika and contrabass balalaika. They all have three strings. There are many ways to tune balalaika; the most common tuning is E-E-A. The prima balalaika is played with the fingers, the sekunda and alto either with the fingers or a pick depending on the music being played. The basses and contrabasses, which have legs that rest on the floor, are played with leather picks.
Early pictures of the balalaika show it had between two and six strings, like some Central Asian instruments. Frets on earlier balalaikas were made of animal gut and tied to the neck so that they could be moved around by the player. 041b061a72