I feel the bard gameplay lacks a consistent theme, something to bring it all together. A way to make the player feel like they are actually out there on the battlefield doing something. That theme should be a tribal one. Where in history do we see music with as much mysticism as tribes with their spiritual boogie downs.
The instrument could be replaced with a set of drums carried along the waist with a brace much like in a marching band, sitting lower on the player and looking more realistic as a mobile instrument. This visual would add to both the players line of sight, and their immersion.
The sound of drums being an obvious upgrade from the xylophone. Deep war beats and groovy rythm would be much less annoying and much less repetitive, especially in long epic battles. The banging can be as random as it needs to be and it would still make any combat feel like an ancient warzone.
As far as gameplay, of little colored balls falling down your screen from nowhere that represent what notes to hit totally take you out of the game. It could be replaced with roaming little spirits, flying out of the air around you and possessing your drums. Making each drum glow bright for a moment to signal where to hit as the spirit enters it, then fading rather quickly. Rewarding the player with ghostly sparks on a good hit and more visually incentivising them to keep up the beat as well as making it visually easier to follow along.
Not only would the translucent nature of the spirits once again allow the player to see what they are doing better, but would also give more meaning to the bards magic. Your healing and hurting, calling on the magic of the spirits of the world. Much more impacting. It would feel like you’re really summoning powers from the elements to bring about your victory.
And now for the ‘instruments’ the little floating metal balls that let you decide your effects. Instead of just hanging out below your instrument and largely getting away, they should be invisible, called up by tapping your sticks together like a drummer keeping time, and then sent away just as fast. Keeping your screen clear once again, so you can see whats what.
Finally, when playing and keeping up your rythm, the range of your hurts and heals should be visible, and how better than a circle of boogieing spirits, color coded to your effects, allowing you to more tactically place yourself and keep your allies and enemies within check. Seeing the loose circle of green little translucent ghostlies swirling around your whole area of effect.
Of course it could all be client side and only visible to the bard.
A veritable spiritual boogaloo none the less.
And really. I cannot stress enough how much nicer it would be to be playing a low drum beat, than a xylophone.