Balalaika Parts 1 & 2

I recently bought two video downloads from Olivia’s Cowboys and Cossacks store: Balalaika, Part 1 and Part 2, the first two of a series. They were filmed during the May 2015 seminar Andrey held in St. Petersburg. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s really not much available in English on learning the balalaika, and the two books I’d bought didn’t inspire me, so I basically gave up. Once I saw that Olivia had these tutorials available, though, I knew they would probably be good – and I wasn’t disappointed.

The first good thing is that they’ve inspired me to pick up my balalaika again! Of the two I own, I’m using the one with the old-fashioned three steel strings, which to me is my “folk balalaika”. The other, with modern strings, is for when (if?) I start following tutorials using the contemporary E-E-A tuning.

The second, immediate, benefit was that I learned what tuning Andrey uses for his own balalaika. A contributing factor to losing heart before was never being able to get my own balalaika sounding like the few clips I had of Andrey playing in classes when I trained with him in Pushkin. Trying to work it out, I’d concluded that it must be D-F#-A. Nope. He uses E♭-G-B♭. Aha…..

The first song in the tutorial is a very simple one, just three chords, and it’s the one that I filmed Andrey teaching: the one he most usually uses in class. So, learning that will be my mission over Chinese New Year.

Balalaika 2

And that’s as far as I’ve got – so far… I’ve watched both tutorials through, and I’m very pleased to see that they cover a number of the songs from my favourite medley clips, so there’s a LOT here that I really wanted to learn from the very beginning. Of course, some are pretty complex; this is going to be a long process. But wow, it’s great to feel motivated again…


  1. Amazing isn’t it?? Everyone who managed to wake up earlier for lessons during the seminar ,were pretty fluent by the end.I was too exhausted,personally, but I am kicking myself for not doing it. I’m glad they helped and thanks for the review!!


  2. Since I posted this, I’ve been practising most days. I can only manage a short period per day, because my fingertips are too soft, although calluses are now developing! For the moment, though, it becomes too painful after a while. Partly for this reason, I’ve switched after all from the balalaika with all-steel strings to the one with 2 vinyl, 1 steel, so at least one finger gets some relief! I’ve decided to tune this one to what I originally used: D-F#-A. The lower tuning, plus the vinyl strings, give a more pleasing sound – or so I feel at the moment! I may go back to the other once my fingertips have hardened up sufficiently.

    I’ve also bought a pick for the strumming. I’m not used to these, so it’s all a learning experience. Enjoying it, though…


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