The Snuff Wife jig

There are 19 recordings of this tune.

This tune has been recorded together with Inspector Donald Campbell Of Ness (a few times), Pipe Major Jimmy McGregor (a few times), Chloe’s Passion (a few times) and James MacLellan’s Favourite (a few times).

The Snuff Wife has been added to 7 tune sets.

The Snuff Wife has been added to 76 tunebooks.

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Four settings

X: 1
T: The Snuff Wife
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Amix
d2c BGB|BGB BGB|d2c BGB|AAA c2A|
d2c BGB|BGB Bcd|e2d cBc|AAA c2A:|
Bcd dGd|Bcd dGd|cAc BGB|AAA c2A|
Bcd dGd|BBB Bcd|e2d cBc|1AAA c2A:|2AAA d2f||
ecA ecA|ecA e2e|fdf ece|dcd f2d|
ecA ecA|eee efg|agf gfe|dcd f2d:|
efg gfg|efg gfg|fdf ece|dcd f2d|
efg gfg|ece efg|agf gfe|1dcd f2d:|2dcd g2e||
X: 2
T: The Snuff Wife
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Amix
|: A2 | {Gdc}d2c {g}B{d}G{e}B| {g}B{d}G{e}B {g}B{d}G{e}B | d2 c {g}B{d}G{e}B| {g}A{d}A{e}A c2 {G}A |
| {Gdc}d2c {g}B{d}G{e}B| {g}B{d}G{e}B {g}Bcd | {g}e2 d {g}cBc | {g}A{d}A{e}A {gcd}c2A:|
|: {g}f | B2 d {g}dcd | {g}Bd{G}d {g}Gd{G}d| {g}cAc {g}BGB | {g}A{d}A{e}A c2 {G}A |
| B2 d {g}dcd | {g}Bd{G}d {g}GB{G}B | {g}e2 d {g}cBc | {g}A{d}A{e}A {g}d2:|
|: {g}ecA {g}ecA | {g}ecA {g}ece | {g}fdf {g}ece | {g}d{e}d{G}d {g}fed |
| {g}ecA {g}ecA| {g}ecA {g}efg| {ag}agf gfe | {g}d{e}d{G}d {g}fed:|
|: {g}efg {f}gfg | {f}gfg {f}gfg | {a}fdf {g}ece | {g}d{e}d{G}d {g}fed |
| {g}efg {f}gfg | {f}gfg {f}gfg | {ag}agf gfe | {g}d{e}d{G}d {g}fed:|
X: 3
T: The Snuff Wife
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Amix
|:d5/2 c BG GB | BB GA Bd GB | dd dc BG GB | AA AB c2 BA |
| d5/2 c BG GB | BB GA Bd dB | e5/2 d cc Bc | AA AB c2 BA :|
[M: 6/8] |:Bdd dGd || [M: 4/4] Bd dG dd Gd || [M: 6/8] cAA BGG || [M: 4/4] AA AB c2 BA |
[M: 6/8] | Bdd dGd |[1 [M: 4/4] BG GA Bd dB | e5/2 d cc Bc | AA AB c2 BA :||
[2 [M: 6/8] BGB Bcd | e2 d cBc | AAA d2 f] |: ecA ecA |
| ecA eAe | fdf ece | dcd f2 d | ecA ecA |
| ece efg | agf gfe | dcd f2 d :||: efg gfg |
| efg gfg | f2 d edc | dcd f2 d | efg gfg |
| ece efg | agf gfe |1 dcd f2 d :|2[M: 9/8] dcd f9/2
X: 4
T: The Snuff Wife
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Amix
|: d2c BGB | BGB BGB | d2c BGB | ABA c2A |
d2c BGB | BGB Bcd | e2d cBc | ABA c2A :|
|: Bcd dGd | Bcd efd | cAc BGB | ABA c2A |
Bcd dGd | BcA Bcd | e2d cBc |1 ABA c2A :|2 ABA d2f ||
|: ecA ecA| ecA e2d | fdf ece | dcd f2d |
ecA ecA | efd efg | agf gfe | dfd f2d :|
|:efg gfg | ef/g/a bag | fdf ece | dcd f2d |
efg gfg | efd efg| agf gfe |1 dcd f2d :|2 dcd f2e ||

Twenty-five comments

This is a popular traditional highland pipe reel. Picked it up from Leo McCanns’ album "If Anyone Can"

G lydian in the 1st 2 parts. Interesting tune!

Yes Dow you’re right. I didn’t see that very often, I know a tune tune from Liz Carroll which seems to have its 2nd part in E lydian, with the rest (1st part and end of 2nd) in E dor. That gives something really great… but I don’t have the name. I’d like to post it, but not with ‘Gan Ainm’ as a title.

Posted by .

Thanks for fulfilling my request! πŸ™‚

Posted by .

But I can’t get the sense of this title (got a bad English)?… it seems strange to me 😏

Posted by .

Snuff is like tobacco you snort protz


The snuff wife … a powdered tobacco seller

Very interesting tune! I’ve rarely seen anything using the lydian mode, much less anything that sounded very good…

A great Scottish jig…

One of the best pipe-jigs ever, and one of my favourites,popularised, I’d say, by the "Battlefield Band". The key changes really tie accompanists up in knots, in my experience.

Posted by .


I can’t see any reason to classify this as a B minor tune. There are grounds for G lydian and A mix in 1 & 2, and A mix and D maj in 3 & 4, depending on whether you hear the opening or closing passages as the modal centre.

Matt, the reason the tune is listed in B minor is because it has two sharps. The first two parts may be in G lydian but the last two are not. Any way you list the tune would be wrong. B minor was the best choice as it has the right amount of sharps. You can’t list a tune here in two keys.

I know you can have tunes in two keys here but they have to be listed in one key here. It’s G lydian to Amix. ??? There is no G lydian choice here though. Maybe it would be better listed A mix? Any opinions?

Comment on Mode/Key

Hi bogman - I don’t see it can be B-Min, as B is not the keynote. And even if it were, it would be the natural minor (rather than the harmonic minor), as the latter always includes accidentals.

I think that A-Mix would be a fair classification (certainly for the "A" part, although (as has already been noted) it could be argued that part of the "B" tune modulates into D-Major.

Heres a setting with some variation and grace notes.
T:The Snuff Wife
|: A4 | {Gdc}d8 c4 {g}B4{d}G4{e}B4 | {g}B4{d}G4{e}B4 {g}B4{d}G4{e}B4 | d8 c4 {g}B4{d}G4{e}B4 | {g}A4{d}A4{e}A4 c8 {G}A4 |
| {Gdc}d8 c4 {g}B4{d}G4{e}B4 | {g}B4{d}G4{e}B4 {g}B4c4d4 | {g}e8 d4 {g}c4B4c4 | {g}A4{d}A4{e}A4 {gcd}c8:|
|: {g}f4 | B8 d4 {g}d4c4d4 | {g}B4d4{G}d4 {g}G4d4{G}d4 | {g}c4A4c4 {g}B4G4B4 | {g}A4{d}A4{e}A4 c8 {G}A4 |
| B8 d4 {g}d4c4d4 | {g}B4d4{G}d4 {g}G4B4{G}B4 | {g}e8 d4 {g}c4B4c4 | {g}A4{d}A4{e}A4 {g}d8:|
|: {g}e4c4A4 {g}e4c4A4 | {g}e4c4A4 {g}e4c4e4 | {g}f4d4f4 {g}e4c4e4 | {g}d4{e}d4{G}d4 {g}f4e4d4 |
| {g}e4c4A4 {g}e4c4A4 | {g}e4c4A4 {g}e4f4g4 | {ag}a4g4f4 g4f4e4 | {g}d4{e}d4{G}d4 {g}f4e4d4:|
|: {g}e4f4g4 {f}g4f4g4 | {f}g4f4g4 {f}g4f4g4 | {a}f4d4f4 {g}e4c4e4 | {g}d4{e}d4{G}d4 {g}f4e4d4 |
| {g}e4f4g4 {f}g4f4g4 | {f}g4f4g4 {f}g4f4g4 | {ag}a4g4f4 g4f4e4 | {g}d4{e}d4{G}d4 {g}f4e4d4:|

key of this

why is this not A mixolydian? look at how all the phrases resolve…..

Who wrote this tune? Is it traditional? in which case where was it first printed ? Im looking for an old setting but its not under this name on Ceol sean… What other name might it be known by ?clues appreciated …

The earliest book it appears in under that name is, I believe, John Wilson’s book 1, published in 1937. No composer is mentioned.

Excellent , thanks Weejie , I will see what I can find .

Lydia’s Snuff

This is fascinating; it really does move through different areas. Even the first bit though, has so much emphasis on moving toward D that it’s ambiguous (typical of less typical modes …). And it does;t give a clear ending either. Somebody could make mischief by messing with the chords. But i’ll just play the tune. That’s easier.

I could not find the rec. mentioned above, but I listened to An LΓ‘r (about whom I know nothing) on iTunesβ€”they take advantage of the ending & blur into the next tune, like a turntablist. πŸ™‚

I’d be curious to hear more infoβ€”

My advice

Please allow me to offer this with sincerity and humility, and absolutely without derision:

If you believe that it is important to spend more than about a quarter of a second of your life trying to determine whether the first two parts of The Snuff Wife are in G lydian, or B minor, or A mixolydian or D major or whatever, then I urge you to at least consider the possibility that you might not yet completely grasp Scottish music.

It’s not a transcription of a Coltrane solo. It’s not an exercise from one of the Hindemith texts. It’s The Snuff Wife. Don’t try to use a bar of soap to peel an apple.


For me, it’s usefull to know the harmony to accompany tunes (maybe because I am not a great player). Adding and listening to the 7e helps me to find tonality => all the chords you might play to accompany. (I often avoid to play the 7e)
Dmaj ## but tones G, A and Em from Dmaj => basic chords
part 1: chords I and II V from Glydian
G (7M) A(7) D(7M)…
part 2: same
part 3 : chords I, II and V from Amixolydian
A(7) D(7M) G…
part 4 : chords I and VII from E dorian
Em(7) D(7M) …

and after, I play all the other chords that I think sound good…

The Snuff Wife, X:3

Second song of Cosmos Cascade medley, from the repertoire of the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band

The Snuff Wife, X:4

A few variations from The Navigators.

Harmony for The Snuff Wife

Response to posts above. Several of you are struggling with understanding pipe harmony/melody.

The whole tune is A mixolydian. This mode is dictated by the 9-note Scottish pipe scale G-A-B-C#-D-E-F#G-A.

The A and B parts start on the flat VII (G chord), resolving in A every two bars. Using the same 9-note mixolydian scale, the C and D parts describe a major scale (Ionian) in D.

The A and B parts clearly describe an A7 sonority, with a lower neighbor G sonority resolving in A. The C and D parts outline D major. The first two bars of each line are clearly A7 harmony, which resolve in D.

This is a masterwork. I wish I could give a medal to the author. The tune is beautiful and ingenious.