How-To: Tuning a Domra and Basic Domra Chords

Here’s my guide on how to tune a domra, plus some domra chords.

How Do You Tune a Domra?

The tunings here are listed in both of the main scientific pitch designations: The Acoustical Society of America (ASA), first, followed by Helmholtz (after the slash). 

See below for the correct tuning positions on a standard 88-note piano keyboard:

domra octave designations

On a 61 or 49-note electronic keyboard, middle C is still likely to be in the middle of your instrument. 

The equivalent positions can also be seen on standard treble and bass clef staves:

domra octave designations notation

The simplest way to tune your domra is using an electronic chromatic tuner (for example one of the popular Snark models – available on Amazon). This will provide a degree of accuracy, that other methods cannot quite match. 

The next best option is to tune the strings to a digital piano or electronic keyboard. This involves using the accuracy of your own hearing to differentiate between sharp, flat and on pitch. You’d be surprised how well the human ear operates in this respect. 

Another option is to tune the domra to a guitar, assuming you’re able to get the guitar up to pitch to begin with.  In reality, there are many guitar tuning resources available to the musician these days with computer, tablet and phone apps everywhere you turn.

Finally, the most organic method is to tune the domra to itself.  You will need to tune the lowest string of your instrument up to pitch (for example the ‘G’ on the 4-string prima domra).

From there you tune each string in succession by fretting at given intervals on the fingerboard (the ‘b’ labelled figures in the diagrams laid out below).  Just follow the arrows to obtain the correct fretting positions.

3-String Domra
Piccolo                                B4/b’     E5/e’’    A5/a’’
Prima                                   E4/a’     A4/a’     D5/d’’
Mezzo-Soprano                B3/b      E4/e’     A4/a’
Alto                                      E3/e       A3/a      D4/d’
Tenor                                  B2/B      E3/e       A3/a
Bass                                     E2/E       A2/A      D3/d
Contrabass                         E1/EE    A1/AA    D2/D

4-String Domra
Piccolo                                C4/c’     G4/g’     D5/d’’    A5/a’’
Prima                                   G3/g      D4/d’     A4/a’     E5/e’’
Alto                                      C3/c       G3/g      D4/d’     A4/a’
Tenor                                  G2/G      D3/d      A3/a      E4/e’
Bass                                     C2/C      G2/G      D3/d      A3/a
Contrabass                         E1/EE    A1/AA    D2/D      G2/G

3-String Domra BEA Fingerboard and Tuning

Three members of the domra family share this tuning, albeit over a span of several octaves:
Piccolo, Mezzo-Soprano and Tenor domras. See below:

Domra BEA fretboard
Domra BEA tuning

3-String EAD Fingerboard and Tuning

Four members of the domra family share this tuning, again over the span of several octaves: Prima, Alto,  Bass and Contrabass.

Domra EAD fingerboard
Domra EAD tuning

4-String CGDA Fingerboard and Tuning

Three members of the 4-string domra family share this tuning: Piccolo, Alto and Bass.

Domra CGDA fretboard
Domra CGDA tuning

4-String GDAE Fingerboard and Tuning

Two members of the 4-string domra family share this tuning: Prima and Tenor.

Domra Fretboard for GDAE Tuning
Domra GDAE runing

4-String EADG Fingerboard and Tuning

Finally, here’s the EADG tuning. Only one member of the 4-string domra family uses this tuning, and that’s the Contrabass. 

EADG Domra fretboard
Domra EADG tuning
domra tuning

What Are Some Basic Domra Chords?

I’ve compiled four different sets of chord examples for the three and four-string domra. See below to select the correct one for your particular instrument.

One green dot is an easy chord, and the difficulty goes up to 5 (as illustrated by more green dots).

Piccolo, Mezzo Soprano & Tenor 3-String Domra (B-E-A Tuning)

BEA chords for the 3 string domra

Prima, Alto & Bass 3-String Domra (E-A-D Tuning)

Domra EAD Chords

Piccolo, Alto & Bass 4-String Domra Chords (C-G-D-A Tuning)

CGDA Domra chords

Prima & Tenor 4-String Domra (G-D-A-E Tuning)

GDAE dora chords

Pro Tip: If you want a complete Chord Bible for your domra, I’ve written one for the Ukrainian Primo & Alto Tuning for the 4-string. Check it out here.

You can also read my article on what a domra instrument is, and how it sounds – or you can check out the best places to buy a domra, too!

Tobe Richards

Tobe A. Richards is a musician and author of 40+ books on musical chord theory for fretted instruments. He started Fret Expert to share his knowledge about all things fretted, and as a way to help others from 40 years' experience in music, composition, harmony, and chord theory.

Recent Posts