Category Archives: history

Colorado Dutch Hop

Colorado Dutch Hop

for Hammered Dulcimer
by Steve Eulberg

This was original published by, hosted by Mel Bay, which has ceased to host this webzine. [Download this article here]

If you’ve never heard of the Colorado Dutch Hop dance, dulcimer, or style of
playing, you are not alone. I played hammered dulcimer for 13 years before moving
to northern Colorado and learning of this pocket of musical tradition.

In 1763, Catherine the Great invited Europeans to populate an area along the Volga
River in Western Russia. Many Germans, weary from the Seven Years’ War, took
up that invitation. These people, now known as the Volga Deutsch, were amenable
to moving because of their social context: their land taxes were high and their sons
were constantly conscripted into the ruling families’ armies. Catherine sweetened the
pot by promising free transportation, free land, no land taxes for 30 years, and no
conscription for their young men! Many families gladly emgirated, taking with them
their beloved possessions, including the hackbrett or hammered dulcimer. However,
they insisted on speaking German or Deutsch and continuing with their time-honored

In so doing, these emigrants preserved an instrument that in Europe was beginning to
undergo some radical changes that would eventually transform it from the keyed
dulcimers of Panteleon and Christofiori to what we recognize today as the pianoforte.
After some time, subsequent rulers in Russia began to covet the land upon which the
Volga Deutsch lived, and also longed to draft their sons into military service. Many
families again began the emigration process and moved to the middle of the USA,
eventually populating several rural areas from North Dakota south to Kansas, and the
eastern plains of Colorado. This migration took place at the beginning of the 20th

Typical Volga Band, 1903.
This photo was taken in Ellis, Kansas.
From Mark Warren and Marilyn Hehr Fletcher, Hochzeit:

DUTCH HOPS: Colorado Music of the Germans from Russia, 1865-1965
Hochzeit (lit. “high times”) or WEDDING TRADITIONS
Once again they brought with them their traditions and beloved dulcimer. While it
was not used in the worship service celebrating the marriage, or the “blowing”
procession from the church to the house where the reception was held (which
featured wind instruments), I’m told that some people felt like they could not be
properly married unless the dulcimer was present at the wedding reception! Rooms in
the house of the bride (or groom) were emptied of furniture and rugs, and the dancing
commenced, accompanied by a band in which the dulcimer was the centerpiece.
People would dance for days (sometimes a week!) and pin dollars on both the bride
and groom as gifts to start them in their new life together.

Bennie Keller of the Polka Kings
The dulcimer often played lead and chordal runs and fills, together with violins,
clarinets, violas, cellos, trombones and other instruments. Many instruments came
and went. The accordion began to be a large part of the band in the 1940’s and yet
the dulcimer still remains—the only instrument to be continuously a part of the band!
The old-time players agree, however, that the accordion now seems to play lead and
the dulcimer has been moved to the background playing mostly chordal runs and fills.

Ben Wiedeman in the Wiedeman Dutch Hop band, 1947
The “Germans-from-Russia,” as the Volga Deutsch were also known, have a unique
twist on the music that I learned to love as a youth in Ohio. When they dance there is
a hop in the step which I can recognize, but have not learned to duplicate. This is not
like the Polish hops which are an important part of the Polish Polka, and many
Deutschers in Colorado say that unless you learn as a young person to dance the
step, you’ll probably not learn it at all—correctly! Kurt Goldenstein, an heir to this
tradition, has interviewed many family members and studied both the music and
dance. He notes that it is easy for people of all ages to perform, and can be done in a
small, enclosed setting typical of wedding dances. (Goldenstein, Colorado Dutch
Hop Music arranged for Accordion).

No one can point to a particular time when the dance and tradition of Dutch Hop
was named, but a bit of historical reminder can point the way.
During World Wars I and II the speaking of the German language in the USA led to
much persecution of German immigrants, including but not limited to the burning of
German churches throughout the plains states. I have met many people who
remember their parents sitting guard through the night with shotguns to scare off the
so-called, but misguided, “patriots” who wanted to strike terror at anything German.
In this climate, the Volga Deutsch, who had often been mis-labeled by English
speakers as the Volga Dutch, continued to have their dances, but in the climate of
hostility named them Dutch Hop dances. (The Dutch, after all, were on the side of
the Allies!)

One of my first hammered dulcimer students in Colorado is an heir to this tradition.
He received his first dulcimer from his grandfather, who was an active player in
several Dutch Hop bands. Brian remembers his grandpa promising the dulcimer to
any of the grandchildren who would learn to play it. “It was a monster/beast of an
instrument, too. Hea–vy!”

He learned from his grandpa that the player needs to have that “bounce and roll” and
also learned to hold his hammers lightly between his first two fingers, in the manner of
cymbalom and santyr players.
Dutch Hop hammer hold

Brian confesses that he never really learned to do it completely, since he can only get
one hand to play with the hammers in the Dutch Hop style, the other hand stubbornly
refusing to hold the hammer except between the thumb and first finger, in the more
common style in today’s dulcimer world.
regular hammer hold

Many players talk about the uniqueness of Dutch Hop Music as a repertoire of tunes
which they inherited and to which they have added. Others say that it differs from
other polka music because the tunes have “attitude”; they are bouncier, have a faster
tempo, more drive, a rhythm that is not the expected “om-pah,” and the
accompaniment emphasizes the off-beats. (Goldenstein, pp. 41-42)

THE TUNE: “Wooden Heart Polka”
The “Wooden Heart Polka” is a tune that I danced to in northern Ohio as a youth,
but when I played it in Colorado, listeners said it was also present in the Dutch Hop
tradition. Goldenstein doesn’t include it in his list of Dutch Hop Tunes. However,
Adolph Lesser and Paul Weingardt, accordion leaders of very popular Dutch Hop
bands in the mid-twentieth century, often mention how they played all the music they
needed to play in order to get the gigs they needed! Ed. note: This melody is that
of the traditional German folk song, “Muss I Denn.”

Listen to Steve Eulberg play “Wooden Heart Polka.”
In the demo of the tune (MP3) I play the tune through (3) three times: the first in the
lower octave, the 2nd time in the higher octave, and the 3rd time in the lower octave,
but with more notes. The bounce and roll is evident in the slashes on the notes in the
written version below. (This lets the HD player do what we ALL want to do when
we play—double and triple hits!)


In Print:
Goldenstein, Kurt Edward. Colorado Dutch Hop Music arranged for the
Accordion: The Music, history, and culture of Colorado’s Germans from
Russia. Self-published, with a grant from the Colorado Council on the Arts, 2000.
Kurt is an heir to this tradition and an accomplished accordion player has collected a
most valuable resource full of tunes, stories, photos and recipes.
Warren, Mark and Fletcher, Marilyn Hehr. Hochzeit: Dutch Hops: Colorado
Music of the Germans from Russia 1865-1965. Introduction by Al Holman.
Self-published, 1990.

See Goldenstein, above.
“A Colorado Dutch Hop Sampler” Produced by T & M Sound and Productions,
Lakewood, CO (303)989-5377, 1988. Nine Colorado Dutch Hop Bands each
contributing 2 songs to this sampler, produced with support from Swallow Hill Music
Association in Denver, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Colorado
Council on the Arts.

Most bands produced their own vinyl records, and according to Adolph Lesser they
often sold each other’s recordings at the dances at which they played.

On the World Wide Web:
“General Volga Germans”
Interview with Adolph Lesser by Timothy Kloberdanz. Lesser is one of the most
famous of the 20th century Dutch Hop band leaders (an accordionist). Kloberdanz is
on the faculty of the University of North Dakota and has been a dedicated researcher
of the traditions of the Germans-from-Russia.

“Wedding Customs”
Other Resources:
American Historical Society of Germans From Russia (AHSGR), Lincoln, NE

GRHS-Germans from Russia Heritage Society, 1008 E. Avenue, Bismark, NE
58501, (701)233-6167
The Denver Public Library—Western History and Geneaology, 10 W.
Fourteenth Avenue Pkwy, Denver, CO 80204-2731 (303)640-6299
The Fort Collins Public Library, Local History Room
Germans from Russia Colorado Study Project
Curator, Germans from Russia Collection, Colorado State Univeristy
Libraries, Ft. Collins, CO 80523-1019

About the Author
Dutch Hop music resembles what Steve Eulberg learned to dance to as a young
teenager in northern Ohio. He learned to polka, waltz and schottische for fun, and to
his delight discovered that because he knew the steps and liked to dance them, he
was finally popular with the girls —at least for the duration of the dance!
This February in cold Quebec, Steve met Burr Beard, the first hammered dulcimer he
ever heard in his college days. “It’s all because of you that I’ve been adventuring and
playing this instrument for 26 years,” Eulberg exclaimed. “Thank-you!”
Steve built his first two instruments from Hughes kits, and the hammered dulcimers he
now plays are a Dusty Strings D260B and a James Jones Travel Chromatic. In
addition to exploring and preserving the Colorado Dutch Hop traditions, he is also
exploring the Indian Santoor, when not buzzing on his Australian Didgeridoo.
Steve teaches from his private studio in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he lives with
his family. He is the Director of Music at the Lutheran Campus Ministry at Colorado
State University, where his spouse is the pastor. He has 3 times been a Winfield
(National Flatpicking Championshps) finalist in the hammered dulcimer, and is busy
teaching and performing on the festival circuit. “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime,”
his instrumental recording of minor mode tunes from the Christmas season, was
nominated in two categories on the first 2003 Grammy ballot. His music has been
featured on NPR’s “Open Stage” and used as “buttons” for the NPR broadcasts,
has been played on United Airline’s Inflight Audio, and is currently featured in the
soundtrack of PBS’s “RoadTrip Nation.”.

Steve also is the owner of Owl Mountain Music, Inc. through which he records,
produces and publishes music. He can be reached at

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Posted by on July 19, 2021 in hammered dulcimer, history


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New Fiddle Lesson by Vi Wickam

New Fiddle Lesson by Vi Wickam

by Steve Eulberg

The Arkansas Traveler is one of Vi’s favorite old-time tunes, and crosses several different genres from old-timey Ozark style to Texas style, and even to bluegrass.

The version in this lesson is on the beginner level.  This is also a tune that was featured on Fiddle Whamdiddle’s Not My Monkey recording.   

Vi has taught a brand-new lesson on this tune for here.

Subscribe to and get access to all of the lessons all of the time!

Vi plays his favorite variations from Major Franklin for
the inaugural video of his Fiddle-Tune-A-Day in 2012.

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Posted by on December 5, 2018 in fiddle, history, lessons, subscriber news


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Dulcimer Articles Archive

Dulcimer Articles Archive

by Steve Eulberg

Since appearing on the cover of Dulcimer Players News in 2002 (see above), Steve has been writing articles to share what he has learned with the dulcimer community. was a website hosted by Mel Bay Publications and was coordinated and edited by Lois Hornbostel.  Sadly, the website is no longer hosted and all of the resources published there are lost to the bits and bytes of time in the internet age.

Dulcimer Players News is a quarterly magazine for enthusiasts of both kinds of dulcimer and has been in publication since 1975!  First under the direction of Maddie MacNeilthen Dan and Angie Landrum, it is now published by Ashley Ernst, who has recently taken the helm.

I have written several articles (15) for both outlets about a variety of topics, and because of the vagaries of the internet, I have compiled them on my website here.

  1.  The DulcimerSessions articles (Colorado Dutch Hop, ‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime & Still, Still, Still) are all available as downloads to read there.

2.  The pre-2012 Dulcimer Players News articles are available in the DPN archives on via clickable links.

The articles published since then are not yet archived, but can be found in back issues.

Topics include:

Playing a Scottish Strathspey

Jazzing it up:  Playing Jazz on dulcimers (1-3-5 tuning and the classic ii-V-I progression)

Playing Backup on Dulcimers (3-part series that features bass lines)

Creating Dulcimer-Friendly Arrangements for Dulcimer Ensembles (5-part series)

Playing Blues on Mountain Dulcimer

Improvising on the Dulcimer “Tweaking Twinkles”

If you missed an issue and can’t find the back issue but are still interested in the topic, contact me and I’ll be certain that you get what you need!

I also need to say, if you haven’t yet subscribed to the incredibly affordable and inestimably valuable resource that is Dulcimer Players News, I urge you hurry and to subscribe today!


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Tam Kearney Dulcimers

Tam Kearney Dulcimers

by Steve Eulberg

I was picking through my photo archives and was so delighted to uncover these photos!


Tam Kearney, co-founder of Toronto’s Fiddler’s Green and dulcimer-builder

Tam Kearney was a mainstay in the Toronto folk music scene after growing up in Glasgow and then moving to Canada in the 1960s.  Unfortunately for us, he passed in 2013.  (Read Ian Robb‘s eulogy in SingOut! Magazine here.)

I was on tour in Toronto in March of 2017 and was able to play a house concert for Lynn Westerhout, Tam’s spouse, and she allowed me to borrow and play on (2) of his hand-crafter instruments for the concert and the day of workshops the following day.

(You can read my blogpost about the concert here)

The first dulcimer I am calling Shamrock because of the soundhole shapes.


Shamrock headstock detail

The second dulcimer I am calling Heart because of the soundhole shapes.  (For some reason the shamrock inlay adorns the heart dulcimer!)

I wonder how many more treasures like these are spread across North America?

Let us know when you spot one, see if you can play it, take pictures and we’ll share it here!



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Historic Dulcimers in England

Historic Dulcimers in England

by Steve Eulberg

I was honored to be the American mountain dulcimer tutor for the Nonsuch Dulcimer Club’s Fall Festival in Malvern, England last month.

Thanks to Geoff Reeve-Black, I was also able to see some historic mountain dulcimers from his collection that I am pleased to show to you here:


This one was built by Edd Presnell from North Carolina.  Some people find the traditional wooden tuning pegs to be a challenge (and a chore!) but these operated smoothly, AND accurately, even though I was coaxing the instrument into a couple of different tunings.


The second instrument was built by Sam Carrell of Tennessee.   Like the Presnell dulcimer, this one also had friction pegs, but has the classic “fiddle” shape that Mike Clemmer also builds with in Townsend, Tennessee.  Like Mike’s, this one is also built to be strung as a 5-string instrument, but Geoff had it set up as a 4 equi-distant string instrument.

As I took the photo of Geoff, holding the Presnell dulcimer above, he quipped:  “Ah, a photo of two fossils.”

That makes me one grateful dulcimer paleontologist for sure!


And here is a view of our multi-instrument jam in the Lawnside Room on the first night!  (This was just a harbinger of all the good music shared throughout the weekend.)


And this photo is the clear evidence that this dulcimer festival was taking place in England.  Where tea (and coffee) were served twice a day, and after tea-time, the bar opened for the rest of the evening, throughout dinner and the evening jam session.



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Habits Announcement (Ends 9/30/18)

Habits Announcement (Ends 9/30/18)

“Hi, this is Steve Eulberg with another Habit for Your….

….well, it’s not exactly a Habit, it’s an announcement:

For people who are developing their Habits for a Healthy Music Habitat.

My patrons, on Patreon, have been able to support me so that I can finish this collection in a digitized fashion. Southern Harmony shape-note tunes arranged for Mountain Dulcimer Trios.


And what I’m excited about is they were able to do that, and THAT let’s me get to work on the NEXT one, which is shape-note Fuguing tunes, from the Sacred Harp collection.

As a way of just thanking patrons and inviting YOU to be one of those patrons also, I want to give you a chance to get your name into the THANK-YOU PAGE of the digital book!

This is a special offer that only lasts until the end of September and I want YOU to have the chance to get in on it.

Patrons are also what help to support the creation of the Habits videos [for Your Healthy Music Habitat] and regular emails. [Habits from the Muse]

So, thank you for listening, for watching, for commenting, for suggesting ideas, and thank-you for your support.” to sign up!


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Mountain Dulcimer Sighting!

Mountain Dulcimer Sighting!

by Steve Eulberg

It is always exciting to uncover or bump into another dulcimer sighting, in the course of one’s daily life (and/or internet searching!)

In this video there is a visual and audio sighting of Frank Profitt playing and singing the ballad Barbara Allen from 8:46-11:09.

His part of the video footage is from the Alan Lomax Collection

The Theme:  The Cultures of the Scots-Irish in the New world, the role that music plays on both sides of the Atlantic, during the passage across the sea and  today.

For further bio about Frank Profitt and his music see Folk-Legacy Records.


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Frank Proffitt

Frank Proffitt

by Steve Eulberg

In Pete Seeger‘s television series, Rainbow Quest, Episode 26, he hosted folklorist Frank Warner.  At about 26:27 they begin discussing Frank Proffitt, including some film of him playing his banjo at the Newport Folk Festival (begins at 40:09)

Frank is most well-known for preserving the song Tom Dooley,

Earlier in their conversation, Pete relates an exchange of letters between Howie Mitchell and Frank Proffitt about dulcimer building.  (38:27-38)

(Note:  Howie Mitchell’s Hammered Dulcimers:  How I Build them, was one of the references that I consulted before and during the building of my first two hammered dulcimers.)


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Mimi and Richard Fariña

Mimi and Richard Fariña

by Steve Eulberg

What a time in which to live!  The archive of so many treasures is available with a few clicks or keystrokes.

Pete Seeger hosted a television series in 1965-66 that had a very limited audience in the New York and New Jersey areas, called Rainbow Quest.

There was no studio audience yet Pete interacts with the camera as if it is an actual audience as he told stories and sang.

He had many guests and in this episode he hosted Mimi and Richard Fariña having met and heard them play and sing at the Newport Folk Festival recently.  Many episodes have been uploaded to Youtube and preserve a national treasure of American folk musicians.

Enjoy this one!

Richard Fariña’s dulcimer playing influenced many West coast players (e.g. Robert Force, Neal Hellman) as well as others across the country, despite his tragic death at such a young age.

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Posted by on April 27, 2018 in history, mountain dulcimer


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The Perfect Wrong Note

The Perfect Wrong Note

by Linda Ratcliff

If you ever strum the wrong note, or strike the wrong string with your
hammers …  just tell them you were playing the jazz version.
– Linda Ratcliff

The Perfect Wrong Note

My 16-year-old grandson plays the saxophone in his band at school, and he was telling me about trying out last week for the school jazz band. All the kids waiting for their turn were troubled by one note in the arrangement – an Eb. They thought if they could just play that note 1/2 step higher, it would sound perfect. But it was the wrong note.  

I could relate. I’ve been working on a new arrangement for “God Bless the USA” on my hammered dulcimer, to share around the 4th of July. I usually work out my arrangements by ear, rather than reading printed material, and there have been times that I had to test several different chords in a measure before I found the right one.

But now and then, the wrong chord actually sounds pretty good. If possible, I’ll include it in the arrangement, and play that chord as an arpeggio (with a series of “wrong notes”) before progressing to the chord with the notes you expected to hear. It makes a beautiful variation, and the audience enjoys hearing a familiar tune with a new slant.

If you’re playing with a group, or with others at a jam session, you’ll need to stick with the correct notes. But when you’re playing by yourself, be adventuresome. Learn to trust your musical side, and test alternate notes, chords, and rhythms for the old familiar tunes. Sometimes the wrong note can be just perfect.

If you have any questions, always feel free to ask Steve or myself.

Happy dulcimering,


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