Let’s explore the wide realm of musical tastes enjoyed by various cultures and peoples of our D&D world. This is by no means comprehensive, but will give you a general idea. Nor are the music types exclusive to a race, nor does any race necessarily disdain other types of music. It’s just that if you see a song in “the old dwarven style”, it’ll likely have a heavy drum & bagpipe section, etc. I also intend to put descriptions of famous bards at the end. This is a work in progress right now…
When groups of deva sing together, it is said that it is a reminiscence of the songs of creation sung at the dawn of time by the angels, echoing what the gods had done. Nobody knows how truthful that is, but they tend to be very beautiful songs with amazing harmonies.
Large metal horns make up much of what is known as traditional dragonborn music. Long, sustained vocal notes are also common, often in a sound like a roar.
Traditional dwarven music focuses on big heavy drums and/or bagpipes. Dwarven songs tend to either be raucous or a dirge, with little in-between.
Elves & Eladrin
The music of the Elvish peoples tends towards the lighter side of things. Stringed instruments are common, like harps, guitars, violins, etc. Elvish orchestras have a wide range of stringed variations, though they often include other fey races playing instruments more typical of their peoples. There is a small group of Eladrin musicians who are attempting to pioneer the music of magic itself, using arcane powers to manipulate sound, but this has yet to be done effectively in a repeatable manner. What we would typically call “classical” music, like Vivaldi’s “4 Seasons”, tends to be elvish-composed music in this world.
It’s hard to pin down a particular style for gnomes, though they tend towards instruments that are complicated in construction and/or implementation, like harpsichords, clockwork auto-flutes, and anything you can construct a music box to play. The few gnomes who do pick up simpler instruments tend to compose overly complex tunes, sometimes using their fey magic to create rounds with themselves or play two separate notes simultaneously.
Deep throated, sustained vocal notes in lower tones typify goliath music as they “sing to the stones”. Some say that when they harmonize, it sounds like rolling rocks or shifting continents.
Think country-time jamboree. Washboards, spoon-tapping, mouth harps, etc. Very big on hoe-downs, which sometimes incorporate elvish violins, but in a fiddle style.
If there’s one thing Humans do well, it’s stealing. If there’s a respectful and traditional type of music from some other race, you can guarantee that some human has taken it and tried to rework it into something new. Human music tends to be a hodge-podge of other races’ instruments, with a bit of human gumption thrown in to make it unique.
Soldiers on The Line have claimed that some orcish war bands will sing as they go to battle. However, no Scholar has yet attempted to catalog or seriously study this form of expression, or to dare trying to call it “music”.
The curious thing about the music of the wee little folk is that a completed song is almost never the same song that was begun. Pixies appear to lose focus while singing or playing instruments, and are notoriously impossible to play back-up for. Pixies are particularly attracted to all kinds of music, though, and will sometimes attempt to mimic whatever music they’ve just heard (though often in a faster-paced, higher-pitched version).
Tiefling instruments tend towards piped/compression styles, including pipe organs, accordians, and similar tools. Their compositions tend to be a mixture of dramatic longer notes followed by fast shorter notes. Pianos are also gaining popularity in the tiefling art scene, simply because they’re less complicated than a full-on pipe organ, and also slightly more portable. It’s hard to hear this kind of music outside of Nueva Turotha, though.
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