At first I was going to do a video on the subject of amplifying of balalaika. But the more I thought of it the less I could think of practical ways of actually doing it. So I decided on a good old article.
The problem with the balalaika is that it has one metal and two nylon string. A regular magnetic pickup used on electric guitars would pick only the first string for the rest you need something else.
There are a few ways of doing it and each way has its advantages and disadvantages.
For starters you can use a regular PA (public address) system with a condenser microphone. Advantages: it is omnipresent, everybody uses it and it is familiar. Disadvantages: you have to stay put. You cannot move too far away from the mic, even a few inches away could destroy your performance.
Another option is a piezoelectric pickup. There are several of them out there and the best is, probably, the Schertler pickup. They are pretty reliable and do not create much feedback, but they also change the sound and don’t sound too realistic.
I use the third way – a mic mounted on top of my balalaika. I has to be a very small mic. I use DPA 4061-BM. It is a very high quality little microphone which does not need any fantom power and one can use it directly plugged to the mixing board or through a wireless system. Advantages: it is very portable, you can freely move on the stage, very realistic sound. Disadvantages: very much prone to feedback if you happened to be in a wrong spot, e.g., too close to the speakers.
I run it through a Shure PGX wireless system which is directly connected to Fishman Soloamp. If a venue where I perform uses its own PA I use my Fishman as a monitor and run an out cable to their board. This way I keep my settings on the Fishman and have a consistent sound to which I am used. You can see my “wired” balalaika in detail here.
There also electric balalaikas which I now investigating and will report on my findings soon.