The zhaleika (pronounced "zhal-YAY-ka," crudely put) is the most commonly possessed and used Russian folk wind instrument. It's a "folk clarinet" or hornpipe. It has a single reed which may be covered by a mouthpiece (or "wind cap"). There's a wooden barrel with finger holes and a flared bell. It can be made of various natural or man-made materials; cow horn bells are common, but all-wood and even birch bark zhaleikas exist too.

The zhaleika has a diatonic tuning, comes in various keys (G, A, D, sometimes also C, E, F) and can come in soprano (i.e. "normal"), alto, and even piccolo forms. They can be tuned by adjusting the reed. Regionally, there exist some 'double' zhaleikas (i.e. 2 barrels side-by-side).

The instrument can be tuned to the major scale or the Mixolydian mode (with a flatted 7th note) and you only get one octave's worth of notes. Some zhaleikas can be "cross-fingered" for a couple of additional accidentals, but some cannot.


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