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What is a domra

   In 1896, a student of Vasily Vasilievich Andreyev found a broken instrument in a stable in rural Russia. It was thought that this instrument may have been an example of a domra, although no illustrations or examples of the traditional domra were known to exist in Russian chronicles. A three-stringed version of this instrument was later redesigned in 1896 and patented. The three-stringed domra uses a tuning in 4ths. Later, a four-stringed version was developed employing a violin tuning by Moscow instrument maker, Liubimov, in 1905.

   In recent times, scholars have come to the conclusion that the term "domra" actually described a percussive instrument popular in Russia, and that the discovered instrument was either a variant of the balalaika or a mandolin. Today, it is the three-stringed domra that is used almost exclusively in Russia. It is played with a plectrum, and is often used to play the lead melody in Russian balalaika ensembles. The Russian model with 3 strings for solos is usually tuned e1-a1-d2 and the Ukranian model with 4 strings for orchestra is often tuned g-d1-a1-c2, but also GDAE like a mandolin.

   There are a variety of sizes, which can often be seen as part of balalaika orchestras.


  Scale Length Tuning String Gauges    
Piccolo 26-7cms b' e" a"    
Prima domra 40-2cms e' a' d" .018 .014 .010 Commonest, where a is 440Hz as mandolin
Mezzo soprano 46-7cms b e' a'   Octave below piccolo
Alto 50-2cms e a d'   Octave below prima
Tenor 55-7cms B e a   Octave below mezzo-soprano
Bass 78-80cms E A d   Octave below alto
Kontrabass (minor)   'E 'A D    
Kontrabass )major)   'A D G    
Domra 4 string   g d' a' e"   Commonest, where a is 440Hz as mandolin
The domra in action with an orchestra.... here