The Sounds Of Russia

larionov (CC0), Pixabay

Every country has it’s own musical history and strange native instruments. Here are several of Russia’s most famous ones that are still very popular in contemporary folk music.


Probably one of the most well known Russian musical instruments all over the world. It’s look resembles a triangle shaped guitar and it produces sound when one plucks at it’s strings.

The first reference of balalaika dates back to 17th century but it became widely used only another hundred of years later. It was an instrument of Russian peasants and it’s sounds were usually accompanying their celebrations. It’s image is so popular that it can be considered one of the symbols of Russian culture.

Nowadays it is still widely played in Russia. It can be heard in solo performances or in orchestras.


A famous Russian instrument that is way older than the balalaika. It was already known in 5th century. A certain ancestor of the gusli is still unknown but it is highly possible that it was cithara – national instrument of ancient Greece.

Gusli were very widespread in ancient Russia. Their construction was rather simple and easy to recreate. The wooden base was made out of birch, spruce or rowan and then it was decorated with pagan ornaments. The number of strings varied from 5 to 30.

Many characters of Russian legends and fairytales were skilful Gusli players. One of them was Sadko, who managed to impress even the creatures of the sea kingdom with his musical mastery.

Russian Harmonica

This musical instrument that came to Russia with the mongolo-tatars became a very important part of the country’s musical history. It’s ancestor originated in China and after making such a long way to Russia, it started gaining it’s popularity after 1830s, when the first production of them was set up in the country. Today you will hear it’s sound in almost every Russian orchestra that plays national music.


A very simple musical instrument with a telling name – “drova” means firewood in Russian.

It’s construction and the way it operates is similar to those of a xylophone. One has to hit the little wooden planks with a special stick to produce a sound. The sounds vary from one plank to another because of the differently sized hollow spaces in them. Generally, drova are made from birch, spruce or maple. Maple is considered to make the most pleasant melodies.

Even now this instrument is one of the favourites among little kids to play with.


Probably the loudest native instrument of Russia. “Treshyotka” means something that rattles or crackles. It is basically a row of wooden slabs tied together. When one shakes it, the instrument produces a sharp, clapping noise. To be honest, it’s sounds can hardly be called a melody of any sort. Treshyotkas were generally used at fairs and big feasts for attracting people’s attention.

They were made out of firm types of wood, for example oak. Often people would add special  insertions between the slabs to make it even louder.


Kugikly or kuvikly is an instrument made out of 3-5 wooden straws of different lengths, all tied together in a row. At the top, where the player was blowing in the little pipes, they all were on the same level with each other to make it easier to play. The tubes could have been made out of reed, bulrush, bamboo, or various trees’ branches. The construction was pretty flexible and allowed the player to change the order of the straws for different songs.

Generally kugikly was considered a female instrument. When performing, 3 or 4 women would play a melody, and 2 of them would also make a sound similar to the one of the kugikly with their voice.


The simplest musical instrument that could be found in many Russian households – wooden spoons. It is probably the only instrument fit for eating with.

They were produced from different kinds of wood, then decorated with national motives. In Russia people have used them since the ancient times to create various rhythms. It doesn’t sound too fascinating but many will be surprised by how many peculiar and fun melodies can be played with this utensils!

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