The Balalaika, The Domra, The Bayan and the Cimbalom

Balalaika Kontrabas

The Balalaika

The balalaika has its origins in the oriental domra. For centuries it was an instrument of the peasant class... read on

Bayan Accordion

The Bayan

Bayan (named after a legendary Russian folk singer) was created in Russia at the end of 19th century. It  probably has the greatest range of treble notes of any accordion available today... read on


The Domra

Domra is a long-necked Russian string instrument with three or four steel strings with a round resonator. It is thought that it was brought to Russia with the Mongolian invasion in 12th century... read on

The Cimbalom

Cimbalom is a form of Dulcimer of Eastern origin which came to Europe in the middle ages. The strings are either plucked or struck with leather covered hammers held in the player's hands... read on

A bit on the history of Russian Folk Music

In the late 1800's, a young aristocrat named Vasily Vasil'yevich Andreev was probably the first figure in Russian history to start collecting Russian folk songs. Whilst studying in the village of Mar'ino, he became overwhelmed by the beauty of the balalaika sound, the instrument being played by many peasants in his estate. In fact, he even attempted to introduce it into the higher ranked society, but the crude instrument on which he was playing was not welcomed by the Russian aristocracy.

Andreyev then began a long collaboration with two violin makers, V. Ivanov and Francois Paserbski and a carpenter, Semeon Nalimov. The four set about reconstructing the balalaika by giving it frets, enlarging the soundboard and body, so that it could be performed on the concert stage. Andreyev became an acclaimed balalaika performer and teacher, often known as 'the father of the balalaika'.
He began experimenting with the instrument, creating a whole family of balalaikas - prima, sekunda, alto, bass and contrabass which provided a full spectrum of sound from soprano to low bass in a manner similar to the string family in the symphony orchestra. Andreyev also added the important domra family of instruments to his orchestra, along with the 'gusli', a table autoharp of the psaltery family.

Three generations of balalaika players have since descended from Andreyev's school. Whilst professional composers have written for the instrument, everything from solo pieces to concertos. However, folk music still dominated in the repertoire of balalaika, which was brought to prominence in Russian music by Vasiliy Andreyev.