The Stack of Barley

Hornpipe, G
Also known as: The Little Stack of Barley

The Stack of Barley. Traditional Irish Hornpipe. TrailJams Tune of the Week. Play it together July 23, 2023. Illustration copyright 2023 Jonathan Lay.

A stack of barley signifies a successful planting and harvest, and that good food and drink are ahead. This tune was collected in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland in 1903, recorded by Michael Coleman in 1934, and continues to be a favorite session tune.

In Ireland, barley has long been used to make porridge and bread. It is also the key ingredient for making whiskey and beer. For the purpose of brewing, barley is usually malted, a process of soaking the barley in water so that it germinates, and then toasting it dry. If the barley is toasted over a peat fire, the malt acquires the distinct flavor of peat smoke. A stack of barley is also called a “barley mow.”

Here’s good luck to the brewer
Good luck to the barley mow
Jolly good luck to the brewer
Good luck to the barley mow

From “The Barley Mow,” a traditional song of England, Ireland, and Scotland


Sheet Music

As always for traditional tunes, the musical notation and chords do not indicate the “right” way to play the tune, but are a useful reference.

Sheet music with chords for The Stack of Barley, Traditional Irish hornpipe in G. Arrangement by Jonathan Lay.

Play from the Dots
Slow tempo 50bpm
Moderate tempo 70bpm


Examples of sets that include this tune.

References and Resources

For those who want to dig deeper, here are some other resources.