Musical Instruments in DnD 5e: Did You Know There Were This Many?

I think the first experience for at least a decent majority of D&D players is the classic “you meet a group of fellow adventurers in a tavern” or some variation on this go-to campaign opening.

No matter what the description your DM gives you is, there’s sure to be some music flowing from ear to ear while rowdy customers enjoy their time.

We’re here today to discuss that music, and how we get to experience it in D&D 5e.

Musical instruments might not be the most exciting instruments we come across, but when you have something that allows bards to cast spells, and your average adventure to pick up some money on the side, it’s more than worth talking about.

Musical Instruments in 5e

Musical instrument proficiencies are pretty commonplace among backgrounds. The listing you’ll see is “One musical instrument of your choice” right next to tool proficiencies.

Here’s the catch though, it can be really hard to find that pesky list of instruments.

In the table below you’ll find a slew of instruments with their descriptions, weights, and estimated costs. Next to a few of these, you’ll see a *, this is just to denote the few instruments given as examples in the PHB.

The Purpose of Music in 5e

More than anything, music exists within D&D because a world with music would be dry and sad. The inclusion of music can set the tone of an environment whether it be a city street, a tavern, or an eerie castle. 

On the side of the players, there is one very clear use for instruments. The bard! These musical masterminds typically use instruments as an arcane focus from which they cast their spells.

As a bard, you aren’t required to use music as your artistic medium, but it is certainly favored. Check out some of our bard subclass guides like our piece on the college of eloquence to learn more about who these spellcasters keep music on their side.

Typically, that’s where we stop seeing the use of instruments but there are quite a few more ways that you can put your proficiencies to work.

  • Making money 
  • Securing lodging
  • Attracting (or distracting) crowds
  • Playing songs around the fire

All of these examples come back to one central theme, roleplay. The reality is that aside from an arcane focus, instruments exist within the worlds of D&D to be just that, instruments.

Really, they can be used for just about anything that you can convince your DM they should be used for. 

Want to seduce the mayor’s daughter with your sick lyre skills? Make a performance check. Want to distract a crowd inside of a tavern while the rest of your party interrogates the sketchy barkeep? Roll those dice, and maybe sing for us a bit. 

Including instruments, and being silly enough with your friends to sing Lynyrd Skynyrd or Zeppelin instead of making up old timey songs, is just a really cool way to have fun with the part of the game that isn’t really governed by a cacophony of rules.

So go out there and bang a drum, blow a horn, or pluck some strings. So long as you and your character are having fun, that’s really all that matters. As always, happy adventuring.