As a bard, I always look up to people like Sam Riegel (who does parodies of many songs). I usually have a uke on my person so I play a small tune (Mostly Never gonna Give You Up and We didn't start the fire ). As a just singing song, I go for my Scottish roots with Proclaimers.
My question for everyone though; What song do you use to (or helps you imagine) your bard?
Well, I just fleshed out this guy. I made him as a complete reference to the Devil Went Down to Georgia. He is a Tiefling (Mammon) Bard who has a Golden Viol that has the ability to cast Summon Lesser Demons.
My forest gnome bard, Zara, just got a Canaith Mandolin so I am extra inspired to be more like Sam Riegel when I play her.
This one came to me last night when I was casting Invisibility from it:
'I see you, the only one who knew me, and now your eyes see through me. I guess I'm just gone.' (Breakfast at Tiffany's by Deep Blue Something)
I'm working on a whole list, I think when I have time I will just sit down with my spell list and make a reference to bring with my character sheet.
This one seemed obvious for 'Friends'
So no one told you life was gonna be this way Your job's a joke, you're broke Your love life's D.O.A It's like you're always stuck in second gear When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month Or even your year, but I'll be there for you (When the rain starts to pour) I'll be there for you (Like I've been there before) I'll be there for you ('Cause you're there for me too)
So, I'm actually in the process of creating songs for my bard. So far, I have custom songs of inspiration for each of the other players in the game (and each song is different). I don't use modern day songs (for this character) but I kind of make up my own tunes and put words to them that work with the personality of the character I'm singing for. I hope to actually create a "magnum opus" for my character to perform later on in the story, but we're still pretty early in the game. It's a fun little thing that people really seem to get a kick out of when they get to hear a song made just for them. :)
I'm playing a variant human Bard who's been displaced from our world, circa 1998. His playlist has a heavy emphasis on alternative and grunge, with some classic rock crowd pleasers in there for good measure. So he might play a snippet of Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins to inspire another PC, cast a thunderwave to the tune of Kill the Sexplayer by Girls Against Boys, or cure wounds while crooning Everybody Hurts by R.E.M. I have a playlist for him on my phone, so I can queue up the actual songs when the mood strikes.
Prior to adventuring, he was a one hit wonder in the area's taverns. The song that brought him thar acclaim? The Safety Dance by Men Without Hats (compete with Dancing Lights show).
My bard Lethlia carries the lyre around, and I made her background a sage so I figure she's big on local history, so I kind of always imagine her singing similar to the performers in the inns in Skyrim, where their songs are about the world politics and old war heroes. I don't have anything really specific for her except for at one point in Hoard of the Dragon Queen she decided to sing a song about how awful Lennithon (a blue dragon) is to a cultist the group was interrogating. Unsurprisingly, it did not end well.
I actually had a bard that I greatly enjoyed improvising songs for, although I can't really say I stuck with any one song in particular. What I'd actually do is I'd have a bunch of notepad documents open on my computer, and one of those would be a list of songs I know well enough to parody, songs I think my friends would like hearing, or songs that feel weirdly appropriate for the current/upcoming situation that I feel like I should secretly start studying. Having that list gives me a generally good set of bases that I can use to retool the words around when the muse strikes me, and when it would I'd open another notepad document to quickly start piecing my own lyrics together.
It should be noted that outside of combat it can be difficult to find the time to make significant progress on a parody unless you'd already had some lyrics in mind from the get-go, but it definitely didn't stop me from coming up with more general-use parodies outside of the game. I mean, out-of-game one usually has a lot more time on their hands to let those creative juices flow. For these ones I'd usually try to make the song parody about one of the party members or about doing something specific for when I intend to boost people's skill checks with bardic inspiration or something. It's always handy to have a few of those up your sleeve since you can't really anticipate the specifics of what could happen in the next session.
I'd generally try to get at least 1 to 2 song parodies in for each session because as amazing as coming up with parodies in-the-moment is it is also very difficult especially when you're on a time-crunch (also it helps you conserve music resources if you don't like the idea of re-using songs). Even still the songs I'd come up with would often wind up being highlights of the session for my other party members so I will say even if you feel like you're having trouble and aren't getting as much not-quite-karaoke in as you would like don't underestimate the power of one little ditty. Even if it's just one, it can bring a helluva lot of enjoyment to the table.
My Bard that im using right now, Yorem Ironlungs the dwarven bard is a total steriotype of scottish bagpipe playing highlanders. In my last session i managed to roll a 20 on performance to distract a town. He doesnt sing much, but he still works really well lol.