In this blog I will explain how to easily add sheet music to your site, such as the example below. Note how the division of the bars adjusts when you shrink your screen width, it’s truly responsive!


When writing blogs about music, you might want to render snippets of music notation in between paragraphs of text. I will show you how to easily embed MusicXML content within your Hugo posts.

MusicXML is the most common format of exchanging musical notation information between different programs. Whatever musical notation software you use, chances are very high they have an “export to MusicXML” functionality. Examples include Sibelius, Finale, noteflight and many others. If you want to use a free, fully functional program to create or edit musical notation, I recommend downloading MuseScore.

To render your MusicXML files as notation on your Hugo site, we will be using a javascript library called OpenSheetMusicDisplay. It reads MusicXML and renders it as an SVG using the widely used VexFlow library. It also supports guitar tabs.

1. Add scripts to the header

To start, add the following scripts to your header:

<script id="osmd-script" async src=""></script>
  (function () {
    // Wait for the DOM to render and the osmd script to load.
    document.addEventListener('DOMContentLoaded', loadOsmd)
    document.getElementById('osmd-script').addEventListener('load', loadOsmd)

    var wait = true

    function loadOsmd() {
      // This is just to make sure both load events have fired before we do anything.
      if (wait) {
        wait = false

      // Iterate through all elements with class 'osmd-container'.
      document.querySelectorAll('.osmd-container').forEach(function (container) {
        // Create an OpenSheetMusicDisplay object for the container.
        var osmd = new opensheetmusicdisplay.OpenSheetMusicDisplay(container, {
          // Use minimal spacing and hide the title and instrument names.
          drawingParameters: 'compacttight'

        // Load the MusicXML file.
          .then(function () {
            // Render the notation inside the container.

It loads the OpenSheetMusicDisplay script asynchronously. After that script has been loaded and the DOM has finished rendering, it goes through all elements with the osmd-container class. For each of those containers, it creates a new OpenSheetMusicDisplay object and renders the MusicXML content inside it.

2. Create the music-xml shortcode

To populate a page with osmd-container classes we can create a Hugo shortcode by adding a file called layouts/shortcodes/music-xml.html with the following contents:

<div class="osmd-container" data-music-xml-src="{{ .Get 0 }}"></div>

It simply renders an empty div with the osmd-container class and a data-music-xml-src attribute containing the MusicXML url which is provided to the shortcode as an argument. The header script will convert this into musical notation.

3. Use the shortcode inside your content

The shortcode can be used from within any Hugo content or layout file:

{{< music-xml "/music-xml/your-music-xml.mxl" >}}

Simply provide the local or global path to a MusicXML file.

Note that this doesn’t produce any audio by itself. I like to add an <audio> tag with an mp3 file below the notation to provide playback functionality.