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Starting a new campaign as DM in the Forgotten Realms (Lost Mines of Phandelver, if it matters) and I have a player wanting to play a Bard who has the ability to play an instrument that somehow appears to be multiple instruments and also sounds like multiple instruments. As the player put it

I want a magical instrument that projects floating instruments being played and when I play one instrument it sounds like a symphony is playing behind me.

Some of the solutions to this character building enterprise are:

  1. As a level 1 Bard, use Mage Hand to play 1 additional instrument on top of whatever amount an accomplished one-man-band bard can play on their own, while also using Minor Illusion to give off the image of the floating instruments. They won't really be playing as many instruments as it looks like are being played, but hopefully enough to trick the unwashed masses a street performer. Then by level 5 they'll be able to use Major Image to basically do exactly what they've asked for because they can make any manner of visual and auditory illusions in something they have lots of experience in (music).
  2. We work together on a backstory that gives the player a magical instrument but at some cost. An instrument that can be played by one person that gives the performance of many while also putting on some kind of magical visual show of all those instruments is a magic item of not insignificant power. Something fairly powerful had to create this device and they're going to want payment in some form for its use, or they're going to be really mad when they find the Bard that made off with their handheld symphony.

So solutions I'm looking for are suggestions that improve one of these answers or a better option altogether. RAW answers are a huge bonus to me because then I don't have to arbitrate anything.

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RAW, use Instrument of Illusions and Minor Illusion

For the instrument:

While you are playing this musical instrument, you can create harmless, illusory visual effects within a 5-foot-radius sphere centered on the instrument. If you are a bard, the radius increases to 15 feet. [...] The magical effects have neither substance nor sound, and they are obviously illusory. The effects end when you stop playing.

And for the cantrip:

You create a sound or an image of an object within range that lasts for the duration. The illusion also ends if you dismiss it as an action or cast this spell again.

If you create a sound, its volume can range from a whisper to a scream. It can be your voice, someone else's voice, a lion's roar, a beating of drums, or any other sound you choose. The sound continues unabated throughout the duration, or you can make discrete sounds at different times before the spell ends.

So the way it would play out is the bard would use the Instrument as the material component for the cantrip. So they would keep playing for the duration on the cantrip that can play different parts of the orchestra.

Mind you, the only sound would be the real instrument and one illusion sound at a time, but by switching the sound quick enough, they might register in the mind as overlapping. DM discretion.

As the bard levels up, they can switch to Major Image

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh the Instrument of Illusions is pretty perfect for this case, thanks for pointing that out! \$\endgroup\$ – Danner Levwin Jul 15 at 0:14

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