Musical instruments in DnD 5E explained

Whether you want to play a Bard or are simply looking for a hobby to flesh out your next character, you might wonder how musical instruments in DnD 5E work. Fear not, we’ve got you covered, maestro!

How to use instruments in 5E

Musical instruments are considered tools, when you play the instrument of your choice your DM may ask you to make a check with it. You’ll likely be asked to use your Charisma modifier in conjunction with any proficiency, Expertise, etc. you may have with it, however, your DM may call for you to use other ability modifiers depending on the circumstance. For example, whilst playing music to a crowd may be a Charisma-based check, playing a particularly complex piece of music may require a Dexterity-based check.

In addition to the normal uses of keeping others entertained and impressed with your musical prowess, Bards can use musical instruments as a magical focus for their spells.

How do you gain proficiency with a musical instrument in 5E?

You will usually gain proficiency in a musical instrument from your class or from your background, examples of this are the Bard getting to choose three instruments of their choice and those with the Outlander background can choose one instrument of their choice. 

If you don’t gain proficiency through a pillar of your build, like those above, then you can invest your downtime to learn an instrument, instead. If you find a willing teacher, you can spend 250 days, and a whopping 1 GP per day, gaining proficiency in the musical instrument in question at the end of it.

Which instruments are in DnD 5E?

The list of instruments in DnD 5E can be found as part of the larger tool list on page 154 of the PHB, but is recreated below for convenience:

  • Bagpipes (30 GP)
  • Drum (6 GP)
  • Dulcimer (25 GP)
  • Flute (2 GP)
  • Lute (35 GP)
  • Lyre (30 GP)
  • Horn (3 GP)
  • Pan Flute (12 GP)
  • Shawm (2 GP)
  • Viol (30 GP)

It’s important to note that this is not a complete list of instruments found in the game, notably the category of magic items ‘Instruments of the Bards’ contains multiple instruments not found in this list. They are:

  • Harp
  • Mandolin
  • Bandore
  • Cittern

If an instrument you’re interested in isn’t listed here, be sure to ask your DM as they may be willing to accommodate your musical dreams.


We hope that this article has helped your character play elevating music, not elevator music. If you’re a new player learning the game, then check out our how to play section, or if you’re building your next character and need some inspiration, check out our classes section. Until next time, may your lute be tuned, and may your solos be nat 20s.

How long does it take to get proficient at instruments in DnD?

If you become proficient through downtime, it requires 250 days, with access to a teacher, and costs 1 GP per day.

How much do instruments cost in DnD?

This varies, with the cheapest being 2 GP and the most expensive being 35 GP. A full-price list can be found on page 154 of the PHB.

What musical instruments do orcs play in DnD 5E?

This will vary according to what culture the orcs have, it is best to agree with your DM on what an acceptable instrument might be, but there are no racial restrictions or proficiencies attached to orcs for musical instruments.

What instruments can Bards use?

All Bards gain proficiency in three musical instruments of their choice but can learn more from their background and downtime training.

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