Other Guitars

Balalaika Stringed Instrument

1

I suppose this isn't a guitar so wasn't sure if I should post this here or under "Other Equipment". I chose this because maybe it's a cousin of a guitar some how.

I was at Salvation Army today and saw this. Wasn't sure what it was because I never seen one before but thru research (Googling "3 String Guitar) I saw an image of one and clicked and saw it at the website and the name.

Do any of you have one and/or know how to play this thing?

This doesn't look like much but listen to people on YouTube play it and it sounds really good and it's just three strings yet a full sound -

2

That chap is more musical with three strings than I am with six.

I assume by the picture that you brought it home?

Looks like that's where Gibson got the inspiration for the flying V.

3

JW, no I didn't bring it home because I wasn't sure what it was so I didn't buy it. Maybe I should have.

4

I've only seen bigger versions. These guys come to mind, The Jancee Pornick Casino:

And these girls, Katzenjammer:

Good stuff!

5

Well, how cool is that? Driving acoustic ethnic punk protest folk-rock with hot lead trumpet and tight harmony, played by talented and accomplished beautiful young women without a hint of the sexualized pandering that afflicts so much American diva-pop, all of it held down by a giant bassalaika!

Too. Cool.

I love the surprises the old tired world still has in store. The energy, creativity, variety. This is not a bad planet to live on.

6

And you wonder how Doritos got their shape.

7

I've worked the Red Elvises. Fun gig. A balalaika is tuned and played somewhat like a dulcimer, AFAIK. They come in a variety of sizes.

Might I ask how much they were asking for it?

8

I suppose this isn't a guitar so wasn't sure if I should post this here or under "Other Equipment". I chose this because maybe it's a cousin of a guitar some how.

I was at Salvation Army today and saw this. Wasn't sure what it was because I never seen one before but thru research (Googling "3 String Guitar) I saw an image of one and clicked and saw it at the website and the name.

Do any of you have one and/or know how to play this thing?

This doesn't look like much but listen to people on YouTube play it and it sounds really good and it's just three strings yet a full sound -

– ThePolecats

Yeah, I have both traditional 3-string and double-course 6-string prima balalaikas, which I've owned and played for about 15 years. "Prima" is what the traditional folk-size is called, but there are different sizes ranging from contrabass to piccolo, similar to varying members of the viol family-- different tunings are used throughout. The traditional tuning for the prima balalaika is EEA, with the two lower courses (E-E) tuned the same. It is traditionally strung with gut on the E strings, and steel on the A string. However, most balalaikas that you see in North America (like the one you encountered) are low-grade souvenir models (including mine). A professional-grade balalaika can get rather expensive, just like a professional-grade mandolin.

These cheaper souvenir models are usually found strung with steel all the way across. Unfortunately, using all steel strings inhibits proper playing technique. Traditionally, the fretting thumb is used over the neck on the bass-side E. Remaining fret-fingers work the 2nd E and the A strings. Normal playing-hand style involves either fingers only, or occasionally a leather pick.

Many westerners have a tendency to just tune it like half a guitar (in "Nashville Hi-tuning), or use a dulcimer or partial mandolin tuning. While the dulcimer tuning comes close, none of them reveal the real traditional voice of the instrument. I use mine in the traditional EEA, which requires re-thinking chord structures, as well as melodic rhythms-- And I only dream of being half as good as the guy pictured in the video!

The ones pictured below are mine... If I recall correctly, I believe Paul Setzer also has one.

9

My grandfather was an ace balalaika player. EEA is concert tuning; there is another tuning that's common too. Usually the two bass strings are gut; my grandfather actually preferred a certain guage of fly fishing line, so I'd be careful about using all steel. I've got a Mel Bay book somewhere with that other tuning, bu Tartan Phantom has given you all the good info. My grandfather's balalaikas were actually German made as he thought the Soviet/Russian ones were of poor quality. He modded the neck of one of his with a piece of oak much like the neck reinforcement in a strat neck. Jack Cassidy has a bass balalika he likes; bassalaika is a great name, Proteus. Red Elvises rock!

11

My Dad has had a tourist grade one hanging on the wall since about 1970. Not worth playing. A real one is an entirely different matter and there is likely a cultural association near you that could help you get started. I’ve heard these at a local Macedonian festival by some fantastic musicians.

12

You don't know how lucky you are!

13

Yeah I've had one for years and keep it out and pick it occasionally. Mines a 1970s Soviet era prima.

Have fun with it.

14

I've worked the Red Elvises. Fun gig. A balalaika is tuned and played somewhat like a dulcimer, AFAIK. They come in a variety of sizes.

Might I ask how much they were asking for it?

– wabash slim

Sorry, I was off the computer all day until now, so sorry for late response.

I forgot exactly but it was around $50. Maybe I should have bought it.

Hey I recall the Red Elvises. Do you recall the Russian band from the mid to late '80s called Gorky Park? Their big thing was they incorporated Russian music with rock music and they actually had one of these instruments as well but I think it was an electric version. I forgot about that band and that instrument until I saw the one at Salvation Army and did research on it.

15

This lad explains what you all have explained but it is a good watch anyway.

17

I've got one of the 6 string ones. According to the stamp inside the body, made in Soviet Ukraine. I tuned it like a bouzouki because that was closest to the tuning when I got it and seemed least likely to break strings. Getting it to play decently would likely cost far in excess of the $40 I spent on it.

19

Well who needs sustain when you can tremolo-pick like a demon?

And THAT bassalaika looks right out of a cartoon.

And Tommy and Alex? Ridiculous! People can't do that.


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