In orchestras, this group execute the melodious function. When you play the domra, you play with a plectrum and mostly, you use a tremolo method giving a monotonous endless tone. All the domra instruments are tuned in quarters.
For the whole domra group, the playing methods are the following:
- The before mentioned tremolo method which consists of fast up – and downward beats with the plectrum on the strings. The strength of the beats must be equal. The tremolo can be disconnected after every note (detache). This is shown with a short line over or under the note. On the other hand, the tremolo can combine several notes and bars (legato) as well. This is shown with a curved line over or under the notes and the line is called liga. As the tremolo method is the most used playing method on the domra, it is only indicated in the notes when other methods have been used. It is abbreviated as “trem”.
- The staccato method where there is one beat down on every note. It is indicated with a dot over or under the note.
- The pizzicato method where you make short tones without the plectrum with the help from the right hand thumb. Abbreviated as “pizz”.
The glissando method is one of the more rare methods used. You glide from one tone to another. The flageoletto method where you make the overtones with a slide touch of the string in the points where it is divided in two, three and four equal parts. Indicated with an “o” over the note. You can use the chord play on the domraes except the domra bass. The clang of the chords are very colourful.
THE DOMRA PICCOLO
Is tuned as follows: 1st string: A in second octave. – 2nd string: E in second octave. – 3rd string: H in first octave.
Despite the small size of this instrument, it has a very big, penetrating tone. It is very comfortable to play this instrument and it offers you the possibility of executing run and different kinds of virtuous character in a fast speed.
The main function of the instrument in the orchestra is to double the domra prima voice either in unison or in octave.
THE DOMRA PRIMA
Is tuned as follows: 1st string: D in second octave. – 2nd string: A in first octave. – 3rd string: E in first octave.
This is one of the most flexible instruments in the orchestra tecnically speaking. It plays the same role in the folk orchestra as the violin in a symphony orchestra. The domra primo has a leading position in the orchestra. Above all, it is a melody instrument with big possibilities of execution of voices of virtuous character.
The domra prima is divided in two voices: The domra prima I and the domra prima II.
THE DOMRA MEZZOSOPRANO
Is tuned as follows: 1st string: A in first octave. – 2nd string: E in first octave. – 3rd string: H in minor octave.
Usually, this instrument is only used in big orchestras. It is used to strengthen the voices for the domra prima II and for the domra Alto I and combining the two instruments. The instrument can execute some solo parts.
THE DOMRA ALTO
is tuned as follows: 1st string: D in first octave. – 2nd string: A in minor octave. – 3rd string: E in minor octave.
The domra alto has a special position in the orchestra thanks to its very soft and voluminous, deep clang that is so characteristic to this instrument. Despite its considerable size, the instrument can be used to play passages and variations. Its function in the orchestra is the voice of broad, melodious themes. Very often, the domra alto plays long harmonious tones and more seldom, triads.
In the orchestra, the domra alto is divided into two voices: Domra alto I and domra alto II.
THE DOMRA TENOR
Is tuned as follows: 1st string: A in minor octave. – 2nd string: E in minor octave. – 3rd string: H in major octave.
The domra tenor is a combining instrument between the domra alto and the domra Bass. Its function in the orchestra is to handle melodies in the tenor register and doubling the voices for the domra alto II and the domra bass I. The instrument is to big to run in a rapid speed.
THE DOMRA BASS
Is tuned as follows: 1st string: D in minor octave. – 2nd string: A in major octave. – 3rd string: E in big octave.
Due to the size of this instrument, technical possibilities are somehow limited. Its function in the orchestra is the execution of the bass voice in a harmony or the execution of the melody voice either independently or together with other bass instruments. This instrument differs from the before mentioned domras in the way that it uses lether plectrum for the domra bass.
The others use turtle or celluloid plectrum.
In the orchestra, the domra bass can be divided in two voices: The domra bass I and the domra bass II.
THE DOMRA CONTRABASS
Exists in two registers: The minor and the major. The minor is tuned as follows: 1st string: D in major octave. – 2nd string: A in contra octave. – 3rd string: E in contra octave.
The major is tuned like this: 1st string: G in major octave. – 2nd string: D in major octave. – 3rd string: A in contra octave.
The first one strengthen the voice of the balalaika contrabasses. And the second one combines the voices of the domra bass and the Contrabass. With its tremolo, The domra contrabass combines the beats on the balalaika contrabasses. You use a lether plectrum on this instrument.
The above is an overview of domras of the socalled “Andrejeff model” – all of them have three strings and are tuned in quarters. domras of the “Ljubimoff model” exist with four strings and tuned in fifth (like violins and mandolins).
All information is from the following sources:
V. Andrejeff: “Russisk folkeorkester”, Petrograd 1913.
N. Retjmenski: “Folkemusikinstrumenterne”, Moscow 1956.
V. Avksentjeff: “Orkester af russiske folkeinstrumenter”, Moscow 1962
and Evgeni Pavlovski’s own experience, as described in “Balalajka Blade” from 1963 to 1971, publiced by Evgeni Pavlovski.