The domra (Russian: домра) is a long-necked Russian folk string instrument of the lute family with a round body and three or four metal strings.

String instrument
Classification Plucked string instrument
Hornbostel–Sachs classification321.321
(Composite chordophone)
Playing range
Related instruments
Balalaika, Mandolin


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 (the traditional domra was only known through numerous mentions in folklore, though examples of a related Turkic instrument, the dombra, existed). A three-stringed version of this instrument was later redesigned in 1896, patented, and introduced into the orchestra of Russian folk instruments.[1]

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.

Orchestral instruments

The basic domra is tuned as follows:

  • Three strings: EAD tuning
  • Four strings: GDAE tuning (like the mandolin or the violin)

Instruments are made in various sizes including piccolo, prima, alto, tenor, bass, and contrabass.

  • Piccolo: b1 e2 a2[2]
  • Prima: e1 a1 d2[3]
  • Soprano: b e1 a1[4]
  • Alto: e a d1[5]
  • Tenor: B e a[6]
  • Bass: E A d[7]
  • Contrabass (minor): 1E 1A D[8]
  • Contrabass (major): 1A D G[9]


Tamara Volskaya is considered to be one of the leading contemporary performers on the domra. She is a Merited Artist of Russia, a Laureate of the USSR competition, and a Professor at the Mussorgsky Ural State Conservatory in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

See also


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