Bards are not common in Xian. The kind of sophisticated entertainment they provide is expensive, and a bard doesn't tend to do a lot of the manual labor that keeps the city functioning. Even so, a few students of the handful of arcane musical schools in the city can be found, and the skaldic tradition of the Nordheimers produces its own share of magically talented musicians. Bards are chiefly distinguished from ordinary musicians by their magical talents. Most are untutored talents that could just as easily have become sorcerers had they less skill at samisen-playing, but a few are formally trained by institutes such as Madame Lao's House of Nightingales in Xian.

Common instruments in Xian are not only the lute, but also flutes, samisens, zithers, mandolins, and panpipes. Northern skalds favor drums and unaccompanied voice, often viewing anything more as mere frippery unbecoming a warrior.

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