I started to play the balalaika about 5 years ago. It is a beautiful instrument. The balalaika is a stringed instrument popularized throughout Russia and Eastern Europe. It has three strings and a triangular shaped body. It is also a fretted instrument. The most popular version of it is the prima balalaika. That is the one that I play. The prima balalaika is tuned E E A. The two E strings are actually tuned to the same pitch and are nylon. The A string is steel. The two E strings generally serve as the accompaniment tones and the steel string is used primarily for the melody. The steel string stands out more because of the fact that the other two are nylon. That's what helps the melody stand out.
Since two of the strings are tuned the same. The thumb of the fretting hand is used quite often to play the lowest string. It takes a bit of getting used to and your thumb will get calloused like the other fingers on your fretting hand. The balalaika is played with the fingers instead of a pick or a plectrum. There is also an extensive use of the tremolo technique like the mandolin, except that the mandolin is usually played with a pick but the tremolo on the balalaika is done with the index finger.
I have grown to to love the instrument. I have included a link to a recording I posted on Soundcloud that I made with a couple of my friends. I am playing a traditional Russian folk tune but I have a friend playing a synthesizer solo with it. Here is the link:
I also give online tips on my website for playing the balalaika: http://drpsychotic.com/balalaika/index.html
Bob Craypoe is a musician, writer, cartoonist, webmaster, 3D artist and entrepreneur. Just Google his name and you will find him. You can find his art by Googling R. L. Crepeau