It's no secret that Russian music has a long history of greatness. The country's famous folk music employs unique instruments such as the Balalaika and is often quite humorous. Their world-renowned classical composers include unparalleled virtuosos. Also, the influential Russian post-punk music and alternative music scene spawned some incredibly charismatic figures. Certainly, for every Russian language learner there is a kind of Russian music they will like!

White Background Guitars Rock

Why Study Songs to Learn Russian?

First off, studying a language is extremely difficult and presents many challenges. If studying from a book has left you without motivation, music is a great way to switch up your language learning strategy and overcome obstacles. Also, because songs are catchy, they usually stay in your head a long time. The vocabulary you learn from these songs may not always be in the top 100 most useful words in Russian, but it is important to have a few go-to unusual descriptive adjectives. In addition, you never know when you may be able to impress with a tough word you learned from a Russian song.

Also, music is culturally significant. It will teach you something about Russian culture and give you cultural knowledge to share with Russians in person. These songs are not only selected for you to learn linguistically, but they are also songs that people know or are tied to other subjects like film or history.

The songs are arranged from easiest to most difficult, although none of them are super fast or impossible to learn! So here are the 8 best Russian songs to learn the Russian language:

Star in a Window Held By a Hand

1. Гори, гори, моя звезда - Shine, Shine, My Star by Pyotr Bulakhov

This song has appeared in many versions throughout the years and is quite sweet and romantic. It is a great chance to practice saying the two letters "zv" next to each other, which can be tough for English speakers to imitate.

Excerpt:
Твоих лучей небесной силою
Вся жизнь моя озарена.
Умру ли я — ты над могилою
Гори, сияй, моя звезда!

Translation:

By the heavenly strength of your beams
My whole life is illuminated
And if I die, over my grave
Shine, shine on, my star!

Moscow New Years

2. Если у вас нету тёти - If You Don't Have an Aunt (Traditional Folk Song)

This is a hilarious song that became even more famous in the film The Irony of Fate. This is the traditional movie of Russian New Year when absolutely everyone watches it. Focus on the use of the genitive case after "у вас нет/нету". You must always use genitive in Russian when saying I don't have, I didn't have, and I won't have.

Excerpt:
Если у вас нет собаки,
Её не отравит сосед.
И с другом не будет драки,
Если у вас друга нет.

Translation:

If you don't have a dog,
Your neighbor will not poison it.
And you won't have fights with your friend,
If you don't have a friend.

Old Piano Close Up

3. Хочешь? - Would You Like? by Zemfira

Here's a fairly simple song with super-emotional lyrics by the often super-emotional Zemfira. It is an exaggerated romantic offering that gets slightly dark at times. Russians even say that you know you're in love when Zemfira's lyrics start to make sense. This is a great example of how repetition works in art and music, you'll never forget to say "would you like?" in Russian after listening!

Excerpt:
Хочешь
Сладких апельсинов,
Хочешь
Вслух рассказов длинных,
Хочешь,
Я взорву все звезды
Что мешают спать?

Translation:

Would you like
sweet oranges?
Would you like
long novels read aloud?
Do you want me to blow up all stars
that disturb your sleep?

Man Plays Guitar Behind The Back

4. Полковнику никто не пишет - No One Writes the Colonel by BI-2

The actual words of this song are quite useful, although the lines don't create many full phrases. Content-wise the song is about war, set to a drudging rhythm guitar line. The best part for Russian language learners is that the singer's delivery is quite slow and clear.

Excerpt:
Холодная война
И время, как вода,
Он не сошёл с ума,
Ты ничего не знала.

Translation:

Cold war
And time like water
He hasn't gone crazy
You didn't know anything

Russian Music Vyacheslav Butusov Nautilus Pompilius

5. Дыхание - Breath by Nautilus Pompilius

This band was featured in the hit film брат (Brother) and is famous for having a poet for a lead singer. This song uses a lot of reflexive verbs so you can start to understand how they are pronounced and conjugated.

Excerpt:
слушая наше дыхание
я слушаю наше дыхание
я раньше и не думал что у нас
на двоих с тобой одно лишь дыхание
дыхание

Translation:

Listening to our breath,
I listen to our breath
Before I didn't know that we
Together share just one breath
one breath.

Victor Tsoi Russian Music

6. Кукушка - Cuckoo by Kino

Victor Tsoi, the lead singer of Kino, is a legend. His murals are painted on walls in Russian cities. If you are a young Russian language learner, you should know something about this martyr of Russian rock. In this excerpt, "Камнем" and "звездой" are examples of the instrumental case being used to mean "as a".

Excerpt:
Песен еще ненаписанных, сколько?
Скажи, кукушка, пропой.
В городе мне жить или на выселках,
Камнем лежать или гореть звездой?
Звездой.

Translation:

How many songs remain unwritten?
Tell me cuckoo, sing.
To live in the city or the village,
To lie like a rock or shine like a star?
A star.

Microphone With No Singer

7. Трава у дома - Grass Near Home by Zemlyane

What could be better than showing off your Russian cultural pride by singing the official space program anthem? This song has an amazing mood to it and some interesting vocabulary like затмение (eclipse).

Excerpt:
А звезды тем не менее
а звезды тем не менее
Чуть ближе но все так же холодны
И как в часы затмения
и как в часы затмения
Ждем света и земные видим сны

Translation:

Nonetheless the stars
Nonetheless the stars
A little closer but all are still cold
And like in the time of an eclipse
And like in the time of an eclipse
We are waiting for light and we see earthy dreams

Musical Instruments in Neon Lights

8. Вселенная Бесконечная - Infinite Universe by Noize MC

Now, to finish off the list, if you really want to challenge yourself try out this Russian rapper. He has a lot of good songs, this one is quite poetic and talks about seeing the beauty in things.

Excerpt:
Если вселенная бесконечна действительно,
Значит есть куча копий нашей планеты,
Где-то сейчас происходят те же события,
Копия меня пишет копию песни этой.

Translation:

If the universe is actually infinite,
That means they're many copies of our planet,
In which right now the same events are happening,
A copy of me is writing a copy of this song.

Study Books On Table

I Need Help Memorizing Russian!

It can be very hard to memorize the often long words that the Russian language will throw at you. Music is the first step in helping to memorize.

Music, just like the Speechling platform, emphasizes repetition in a fun way. These are two key words to language learning success: fun and repetition. On Speechling you can do exactly that, with Russian flashcards recorded by native speakers and free personalized feedback.

By listening to Russian songs to learn Russian you will never forget the vocabulary of the lyrics. Learning full sentences from Russian music will also do wonders for getting used to and understanding difficult grammar topics like cases. And remember, variety in your learning process is important!