A long-necked lute with a triangular body; one of the most popular folk instruments of Russia. Its predecessor was the dömbra, which it replaced during the 18th century, possibly because the triangular body was more suitable for hand-made mass production. The Russian balalaika player V. V. Andreyev (1861-1918) was largely responsible for improving the instrument's design; his modifications led to the establishment of six different sizes, each with three strings of gut or steel. The tuning of the instrument varies according to region and the genre of music: examples are piccolo b'-e"-a" ('discord' tuning); prime (the commonest size) e'-e'-a' (balalaika' tuning); second a-a-d'; alto e-e-a; bass E-A-d; and contrabass E'-A'-D. A 'guitar' tuning of major and minor 3rds is also known. The balalaika has a flat back and a very thin, slightly arch belly, which is usually made from four strips of spruce and is sometimes strengthened with and extra piece of veneer on the part of the belly where the strumming hand may strike it. The soundhole is usually small (about 2 cm in diameter) and the neck has four or five frets. Courtesy of New Grove DMI © 1995.