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How to Tune a Balalaika

Dmitry Kalinin Playing the Prima Balalaika
Evgeniy Volchkov

The Balalaika is a unique 3 stringed instrument that comes from Russia. Although there a several different types of Balalaika, including the large cello-like Secunda, most people use the more portable and higher pitched model called the Prima. The hardest thing about tuning a Balalaika is finding information on how to do it. Once you have instructions in hand, you can tune a Balalaika in minutes. The following is the method for tuning a Prima Balalaika.

Hold your Balalaika so that the three tuning pegs are facing the ceiling.

Identify the strings. The first string will be the string closest to the tuning pegs. The second will be the middle string, and the third string will be the bottom string when you are holding a Prima Balalaika in the tuning position (pegs up).

Turn your guitar tuner on and select the scale you wish to tune your Balalaika to (G, E, A and so on). Your scale will be determined by the piece you are wanting to play, you can also set your tuner to read major or minor of the scale you are needing, again this is determined by the music you want to play. The most common tuning for a Prima Balalaika is the G major chord.

Tune the first string to 'E.' Play the string and watch the meter on your tuner; you want the needle to register in the center of the scale. Turn the tuning peg counterclockwise to tighten the string (and make the tone higher), or clockwise to lower the sound.

Tune the second string to 'E,' as well. Classic Balalaika tuning has the first and second string tuned exactly the same.

Tune the third string to 'A' to complete the tuning process.


Check the tuning of your instrument each time before you play.


  • Tune by turning the pegs in small increments; over-tightening can cause the strings to snap.
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