Strength: Bards are able to go melee with their buffs, but this is not a first priority.
Dexterity: Some of your skills are keyed off this attribute. Also helps your initiative rolls and possibly your to hit ability. As above, this isn't a first priority, but try to keep it at decent levels.
Constitution: Helps constitution saves and hit points. All characters benefit from a big score in this attribute and bards are not an exception.
Intelligence: Bards are skill-monkeys at heart and getting bonus points helps them fulfill that role.
Wisdom: You can dump this attribute. You have strong will save and only a few of your skills are tied to this ability.
Charisma: This is your first priority. Charisma determines spellcasting and several key bard skills (use magic device, bluff, diplomacy, perform).
Human: Receive a bonus feat, a significant bonus to the feat starved bard and a bonus skill point per level. Also helps multiclassing with his favored class.
Gnomes: This is a great race for bards. Small size is a benefit, since it helps your attack and sneak abilities. The constitution bonus is always welcome and strength penalty doesn't hurt you significantly. The +1 bonus to illusion spells DC and bonus spells per day are great, too.
Half-Elf: Yup, that's right! Bards must be one of the rare few classes that can fit half-elf in, but only if the great alternative class levels from races of destiny are available to you. Other non-conventional half-elves may be more worth it, such as half-drow, forestlord half-elf or even deepwyrm half-drow.
Illumian [SUP]RoD[/SUP]: The power sigils help skillful characters like bards. The combinations though are a little bad.
Dream Dwarf [SUP]RoS[/SUP]: This is an option if you want to get a dwarven race (in case you want to qualify for a certain prestige class, feat, etc). It has some flavor with the bardic sage variant bardic class.
Spellscale [SUP]RotD[/SUP]: One of the few races that have a charisma bonus, but comes at the cost of constitution. Aside from that, the bonuses are not impressive. A notable ability however is blood quickening, which gives you a bonus to half your class level to a certain check and the use of a metamagic feat some times per day. Particularly good aspects are those of Hlal, Io and Lendys.
The following are recomended *only* if LA buyoff is allowed
Jaebrin [SUP]MM V[/SUP]: Nice ability adjustments, immunity to enchantments and various other smaller benefits along with a will debuffing bite that is charisma based.
Aasimar: Great because of its outsider type (in combination of alter self and similar spells). Now you can really dump wisdom completely. Various smaller benefits. It's worth noting that this is better that its non LA cousin, because you just lose 3000 XP at 3rd level to buy it off and keep the outsider type. Eventually you will get back the lost XP.
Chaos Gnome [SUP]RoS[/SUP]: Nice ability modifiers, immunities and spell-like abilities. The luck reroll ability comes handy if you use skills a lot and the spell power is handy.
Catfolk [SUP]RotW[/SUP]: Believe it or not, catfolks get a charisma bonus! The other abilities have little synergy with bardic abilities, but the +4 dexterity is huge.
Draconic Creature template [SUP]RotD[/SUP]: Great bonuses and the dragonblood subtype that opens up several feats and prestige classes. If LA buyoff this is a great addition to several base races, such as human or gnome.
Weapon Proficiency:Bards are proficient in all simple weapons. While they are not proficient with martial weapons, they get free weapon proficiencies in longsword, rapier, sap, sword sword, shortbow and whip.
Armor Proficiency: Light armor and all shields except tower shields. You ignore arcane spell failure from light armor.
Bardic Knowledge: Make a special knowledge check with a bonus equal to your bard level + intelligence modifier. It's a great ability if you want to know various interesting stuff, but it mostly affects the role playing aspects of your character. If you want to optimize this, make sure to get at least five ranks in knowledge (history), as that will give you a +2 bonus to the check.
Bardic Music:Bards have the unique ability of producing magical poetic effects. A bard is able to use his bardic music once per bard level per day. This is actually o collection of songs which are unlocked if the minimum bard level and minimum perform ranks are met. This is why maxing out perform is essential for any bard.
Countersong [SUP](Su)[/SUP]: This provides you and allies within 30ft a protective buffer. It would be better if it provided protection against a wider range of spells, but as is, it's not good.
Fascinate [SUP](Sp)[/SUP]: Meh, it doesn't work if the subjects are threatened, but it has some usability as you need to fascinate a target to use your suggestion ability.
Inspire Courage [SUP](Su)[/SUP]: This mind-affecting ability is one of the best songs bards get. The bonuses are twofold, as this improves both your saves versus fear and attack and weapon damage rolls. The bonuses are morale, so it will stack with most other bonuses. Here's a thread with ways to optimize inspire courage to a terrifying degree. Note that this is a mind-affecting ability, so it won't work on some characters, like undead, warforged and classes that offer immunity to those effects.
Inspire Competence [SUP](Su)[/SUP]: This improves a skill of a specific ally. The problem is that the bonus is competence and really small. Also characters who want to optimize a certain skill check use custom magic items that grant competence bonus.
Suggestion [SUP](Su)[/SUP]:Suggestion is a great spell and it only requires you to fascinate a target to use this ability.
Inspire Greatness [SUP](Su)[/SUP]: I like this ability, not because of the bonuses on saves and attack rolls. Don't get me wrong, both areas always are glad to receive a boost, but the bonuses are competence. What really shines for this ability is the 2 bonus hit dice people affected receive. That is an average of 11 bonus hit points and the difference between life and death in certain situations (like spells that only check your hit dice , like dictum, holy word, etc).
Song of Freedom [SUP](Sp)[/SUP]: Handy for the occasional curse or enchantment, but not anything special. You can produce many break enchantment spells of course, but only a few (if any) times will be really needed per day. You can't use this ability on yourself and the fact that most bards will generally have multiclassed to something else by this level, makes it less appealing.
Inspire Heroics [SUP](Su)[/SUP]: Nice ability, as morale bonuses to save are not often and dodge bonuses always stack.
Mass Suggestion [SUP](Sp)[/SUP]: Great if you want to control crowds, but remember that you can't fascinate creatures that are threatened.
Bardic Sage [SUP]UA[/SUP]: Gain bonus divination spells (total 7, one for each level you are capable of casting). To determine if you can cast a spell, you must have an intelligence of 10 + spell level, although spell DCs and other abilities (such as bonus spells) are still related to charisma. Finally get some bonus spells on your spell list and a flat +2 bonus on bardic knowledge checks. The downside is that you have poor reflex saves and you must have at least one neutral component in your alignment and cannot be chaotic or lawful. Moreover some of your songs only last 3 rounds after you stop singing. This class variant is useful to bards that are going to be multiclassing early. Reflex saves are not that important generally and you can get over the bardic music duration problem, just by selecting one feat, lingering song [SUP]CV[/SUP].
Divine Bard [SUP]UA[/SUP]: Unfortunately this variant is bad, because it increases MAD. If you have the points to spend though, this comes handy because divine spells have no spellcasting failure and the expanded spell list has some nice spells. Use this if you want to enter a skillful/bard prestige class that has divine spellcasting requirement. Note that divine bards can't cast spells with an alignment component that doesn't match his. Thus the best alignments are chaotic good/evil.
Savage Bard [SUP]UA[/SUP]: This is a nice variant class. Fortitude saves are far better than reflex ones. You are illiterate, but it's only 2 skill points to get around that. The main problem is that your spell lists are customized. Loss of summon monster spells, the main source of expanding your spell list (through spell-like abilities your summons get). Prestigitation is also a good spell, but losing it won't hurt you. You do gain the summon nature's ally spells, insect plague, creeping doom and the very good reincarnate. You also lose two class skills (decipher script and speak language), but both are not in any way essential to a bard. Survival on the other hand has much more applications in a game (not to mention that you become an instant tracker by acquiring a familiar with track and scent). My vote goes to savage bard.
Fey Bard [SUP]UA[/SUP]: If divine bard is bad, this sucks. It can only be used in builds to fill requirements. Don't even consider it for a normal bard build.
Alternative Class Features
Spellbreaker Song [SUP]CM[/SUP]: You lose countersong, but this is already bad. This is no better, but spells with verbal components are much more common than the ones countersong protects you from. The sad thing is that you need concentration to maintain it and it only lasts 3 rounds.
Healing Hymn [SUP]CC[/SUP]: Don't do it! It's a trap! Losing fascinate also denies you access to suggestion and mass suggestion.
Hymn of Fortification [SUP]CC[/SUP]: I prefer this ability much more than inspire competence. The majority of enemies is evil and if you team up with a summoner, this is an easy way to get protection from evil.
Bardic Knack [SUP]PHB II[/SUP]: You lose bardic knowledge and gain this wonderful ability. Check with your DM if you can stack levels that grant bardic knowledge (or a similar ability) for this. Twenty levels of bardic knack plus the feat jack of all trades would be like having all skills maxed out as cross class skills minus 1 rank (cross class skill maximum is 11.5 and you get 10.5 with the mentioned abilities). This gives you space to maybe have a lower intelligence score and focus on important skills while dumping stuff like hide, move silently, spot, listen.
Inspire Awe [SUP][/SUP]: Unfortunately inspire courage is one of the best songs out there. This is good at later levels, but it remains [fear] and [mind-affecting] so be warned that many creatures will be immune to it.
Loresong [SUP]DS[/SUP]: I still prefer bardic knack if you want to trade your bardic knowledge, but this is pretty solid and eventually you'll gain quite a few uses. A +4 bonus on a attack, check or save significantly boosts you defensively and it even protects from disarming/tripping/etc. Note that the bonus is insight though.
Mimicking Song [SUP]DS[/SUP]: Anything to replace countersong is going to be probably useful. This song grants an unnamed bonus to move silently checks of you and your allies that improves as you level, up to a maximum of +10 at 20th level. I can't figure out how singing provides you with a move silently bonus, but note that this is absolutely cool and useful if you want to play elan.
Undead Bardic Knowledge [SUP]ECR[/SUP]: This is nice in a undead campaign, it's probably a nice trade.
Inspire Turning [SUP]ECR[/SUP]:Clerics can easily optimize their turning check. This is even worse than inspire competence.
Repel Domination [SUP]ECR[/SUP]: Loss of suggestion hurts, but you can offset somewhat the loss with your spells. This is nice in an undead themed campaign, as it seems that's always active. Also because it makes undead creatures shaken until the end of the encounter, multiple saves against a creature's effects may render it frightened or even panicked (the ability doesn't note that this effect doesn't stack).
Planar Bard [SUP]PlH[/SUP]
3rd level:Planar Inspiration is a nice and quick buff if you are plane hopping a lot and protects multiple allies. I prefer this ability than inspire competence as it lasts 24 hours.
6th level: Meh, this is too specific to be useful. If you think that you will be doing this job a lot, take it. I find suggestion a lot better though.
Note that if you later gain mass suggestion and have selected this power, you gain suggestion instead.
12h level: Too random to be exploitable, but effects like the timeless trait are perfect for activities like crafting. You can just keep rolling until you get the desirable effect.
Half-Elf Bard [SUP]RoD[/SUP]
1st level: Lose worthless countersong to get the ability to use bardic music to produce a calm emotions effect. This has combat uses, as it cancels inspire courage and barbarian rage and suppresses morale bonuses. The DC is your diplomacy check, which is easily optimized to really high amounts.
6th level:Suggestions don't take up additional bardic music performances, but this can be used in combat (against a single target only probably, as if your allies are ready for battle you won't be able to fascinate enemies). I think i'll go with suggestion.
8th level:Secrets of the Diplomat gives you command, zone of truth and sending as spells known, replacing a 4th level spell known for you. All are useful spells, so why not, it's a fair trade.
Gnome Bard [SUP]RoS[/SUP]
1st level:Gnome cantrips is fair trade, you'd probably get those anyway. Counter fear is surprisingly good, as skill checks are easily optimized. If you are found fighting creatures that usually use fear effects, this is an good song. It replaces countersong which is a bad idea anyway.
3rd level:Inspire competence isn't a very good song and this isn't either. Better swap your inspire competence for an alternative class feature.
6th level:Phantasmal song is an area fear effect with a scalling bonus. Great for a party that uses fear stacking effects, or even on its own to debuff multiple targets and help your casters/trippers.
11th level: Ok you must be joking. Get color spray, touch of idiocy and phantasmal killer as spells known in exchange for a 4th level spell known and the ability to swap spells at that level? At 14th level you'll want to swap color spray for something more useful.
Spellscale Bard [SUP]RotD[/SUP]
1st level: This isn't a dragon specific bardic knowledge. You just gain a bonus to your bardic knowledge checks with effects related to dragons, as long as you keep a knowledge (arcana) number of ranks equal to or greater than your bard class level. If you are a spellscale, take it.
3rd level: Absolutely better than inspire competence. This is great when used on an arcane spellcaster that produces long lasting buffs.
6th level: Gain a +2 DC to your suggestion ability and give up a 2nd level spell known. I don't like limiting my spell selection, but if you think that you need the boost, it won't hurt you much.
Improved Disarm [SUP]PHB[/SUP]: You optimize your to hit roll by singing inspire courage. Your whip proficiency helps a lot here. Improved disarm is probably better than its trip counterpart, as that requires physical strength you won't probably have.
Arcane Strike [SUP]CW[/SUP]: You lack both high level spells and high spells per day to make this work. It's a bad choice obviously. Leave it to gishes and duskblades.
Snowflake Wardance [SUP]Frost[/SUP]: This ability transforms bards into melee monsters. However you do need to fight with one handed slashing weapons, carry no shield and wear armor no heavier than light. It gives you your charisma modifier to attack rolls and lasts for a number of rounds equal to your perform ranks.
Combat Panache [SUP]PHB II[/SUP]: Nice charismatic maneuvers to use in combat that distract and confuse. Remember that this is a fighter bonus feat, so you can gain access to this through the spell heroics.
Goad [SUP]CV[/SUP]: Cause opponent you threaten to attack only you. You can get this feat through heroics.
Leadership [SUP]PHB[/SUP]: Any character with a high charisma score benefits from this feat. It has endless possibilities and is one of the most exploitable mechanics in the whole game.
Track [SUP]PHB[/SUP]: Not terribly useful, but you can fill an additional party role. Works with savage bards. MIC introduces a cheap item that grants you this feat, so you shouldn't waste a feat slot on it if the book's allowed.
Devoted Performer [SUP]CV[/SUP]: A feat that stacks paladin and bard levels for certain effects. You can multiclass freely between the two classes while retaining your lawful alignment.
Extra Music [SUP][/SUP]: You gain so many bardic music per day, this won't be necessary. You may want to consider it at early levels if retraining is allowed and get rid of it later.
Jack of All Trades [SUP]CV[/SUP]: Extremely useful combined with the alternate class feature bardic knack. If you get 20 levels of bardic knowledge and trade them to the alternate feature, you essentially can make all skill checks as if they were maxed out cross class skills for you (or at least very close, minus 1 rank).
Mobile Spellcasting [SUP]CV[/SUP]:Flyby Attack is so much better than this.
Obscure Lore [SUP]CV[/SUP]: Meh, bardic knowledge has limited use in optimized play.
Obtain Familiar [SUP]CA[/SUP]: With the high amount of skills bards receive, their familiars will rock in various roles (scout, tracker, etc). Be sure to select one that speaks, probably raven.
Knowledge Devotion [SUP]CC[/SUP]: Skillful classes like bards benefit from this feat, transforming their skill points into combat bonuses.
Melodic Casting [SUP]CM[/SUP]: This is phenomenal! A must for bards. Its benefits are twofold: First you make perform checks (yay!) instead of concentration when casting spells or using spell-like abilities, which means that it actively reduces MAD. Second, and most importantly, you can cast spells and activate magical items that require spell completion or command word while using bardic music. Unfortunately you can't use wands with this ability (they use the spell trigger activation method).
Nymph's Kiss [SUP]BoED[/SUP]: Bonus skill point per level, bonus to saving throws against spells and a bonus to charisma related checks? Yes please! The only problem is that it need you to be good and bars access to vile feats.
Vow of Nonviolence/Peace [SUP]BoED[/SUP]: You can play a bard that doesn't actually need to cause harm to opponents quite effectively. This will boost your DCs dramatically. Note that it will cause you roleplaying problems and it's assumed that you're an experienced player to use it.
Words of Creation [SUP]BoED[/SUP]: This feat is widely used to optimize your inspire courage amount. The attribute requirements are somewhat steep, but it focuses on your important ones, so it doesn't increase MAD. It requires you to be of good alignment, with the relevant benefits and drawbacks.
Dragonsong [SUP]Drc[/SUP]: Bonus to perform checks and to the DC of abilities that are based on song or poetics.
Draconic Aura [SUP]DM[/SUP]: Cool and pretty versatile ability, that can boost some of the weak areas of your party. Insight, presence, senses and vigor are great options.
Imperious Command [SUP]DotU[/SUP]:Bards can be easily optimized to demoralize. Imperious command is an impressive feat to debuff or disable characters and help your allies. You need however to have intimidate as a class skill for this feat to work.
Daunting Presence [SUP]LM[/SUP]:Charisma effect that makes opponents shaken. Debuffs and can be used to stack fear effects. You can gain this feat through the infamous spell heroics, as it is a fighter feat.
Darkstalker [SUP]LoM[/SUP]: Especially useful to sneaky bards, this boosts your hiding skills to work against creatures with other senses.
Arcane Flourish [SUP]PHB II[/SUP]: Don't bother.
Master Manipulator [SUP]PHB II[/SUP]: Get cool social skill functions with this feat. You can use your charm to distract and confuse targets while your party is doing dirty stuff.
Wanderer's Diplomacy [SUP]PHB II[/SUP]: As above.
Trivial Knowledge [SUP]RoS[/SUP]: Great if you couple it with knowledge devotion. Even it requires a specific race, it isn't much of a limitation, gnomes make great bards.
Extend Spell [SUP]PHB[/SUP]: Great metamagic feat that doubles the duration of your buffs at a low price.
Disguise Spell [SUP]CV[/SUP]: It's a nice option, but with the introduction of conceal spellcasting in complete scoundrel, this gets trumped. Conceal spellcasting even stops AoOs, but it is defined by your sleight of hand check.
Extraordinary Concentration [SUP][/SUP]: Quite a few bard spells require concentration. This is a great option for spellcasters general.
Arcane Preparation [SUP]CA[/SUP]: If you have invested in metamagic feats to use with spells in combat, this is going to help. It also makes you able to enter prestige classes that require casters that prepare spells.
Extra Spell [SUP]CA[/SUP]: With the limited bard spell selection, this is a solid option if you need a certain spell. You can even retrain it later and select the spell normally.
Captivating Melody [SUP]CM[/SUP]: This is a nice option to boost the power of your spells. You are going to have a lot illusion and/or enchantment spells anyway and the DC is easy to hit (maximum 21 with normal bard spells). Note that in case of classes with different spellcasting ability (for example sublime chord), you need different bardic music attempts.
Rapid Metamagic [SUP]CM[/SUP]: This is handy for spontaneous casters that use metamagic feats.
Coercive Spell [SUP]DotU[/SUP]: It's not actually suggested to take this, but wands with swift action spells that deal damage are ideal for debuff on-the-fly. With the rule's compendium new ruling, that wands take the same amount of time with the spell contained inside to activate, the above is doable if you use online stuff, specifically Kaupaer's Quickblast.
Enchanting Song [SUP]RoS[/SUP]:Captivating melody is strictly better, since this requires a worthless spell focus.
Misleading Song [SUP]RoS[/SUP]: Ditto.
Metamagic Song [SUP]RoS[/SUP]: If it didn't have a spell level cap, this would be a lot more useful, but as is, it's average.
Versatile Spellcaster [SUP]RotD[/SUP]: This is a nice option on many levels. You make the most of it when spending two 1st level slots for one 2nd level one.
Green Ear [SUP]CV[/SUP]: You can affect plants with your mind-affecting bardic music-like abilities, but they receive a huge save against them. I only find this useful for allies with the plant subtype, so that they receive the bonuses of your songs. For example, a druid/bard pair with greenbound summoning, this feat and optimized inspire courage can produce really impressive summons.
Lingering Song [SUP]CV[/SUP]: This is a really good feat for buffer bards, you do have the bardic music per day to spend after all. The correct use of this is to activate a song and the round after that activate a different one. A battle hardly lasts more than 1 minute, so you got it covered.
Subsonics [SUP]CV[/SUP]: Check with your DM. If this makes you able to use bardic music when you are silenced, it's good if you get silenced a lot, or if your party is using a lot of stealth.
Versatile Performer [SUP]CV[/SUP]: Actually perform is a broad category of skills, just like knowledges. Hopefully this isn't needed, but if you can't use your selected perform category (for example, you have selected perform [singing] and you have a problem with your voice or your instrument's strings are broken), this helps to equalize all skills.
Chant of Fortitude [SUP]CV[/SUP]: Meh, one bardic music for 1 round of the diehard feat and a feat slot is pretty weak.
Ironskin Chant [SUP]CV[/SUP]: Again, i love damage reduction, but it's just for one round and for a single ally.
Lyric Spell [SUP]CV[/SUP]: You have some bardic music attempts to expend and this feat is really versatile.
Chant of the Long Road [SUP]CS[/SUP]: You can spend your feats or bardic music attempts per day on far better abilities.
Chord of distraction [SUP]CS[/SUP]: This is a hard one. The effect is ok if used in a sneaky party along with a character with heavy sneak attack, but there are far better options to get one flat-footed. Moreover, three bardic music attempts for this effect isn't worth the trade for me.
Epic of the Lost King [SUP]CS[/SUP]: This is nice if fatigue or exhaustion effects are used against your party, as those are heavy debuffs, but in my opinion it's pretty situational. There are also other ways of removing those effects.
Sound of Silence [SUP]CS[/SUP]: This is actually good! It's nice for debuffing effectively spellcasters, other buffs or even other characters. The deafen conditions bestow the following penalties: -4 to initiative, automatically fail listen checks and 20% spell failure when casting spells with verbal components. You can use it to tweak the initiative sequence, getting your high initiative allies act two times in a row, use it on opponents to help your sneaky allies or on spellcasters (20% spell failure is close to 1/5 spells).
Warning Shout [SUP]CS[/SUP]: Grant a single ally some bonus to reflex saves and evasion for one round for two bardic music per day? Not worth it.
Dragonfire Inspiration [SUP]DM[/SUP]: Wow, you can boost the damage of your allies impressively with this ability. If you spend another feat to draconic heritage to a dragon with an obscure energy type (like force or sonic), your extra damage will be even more difficult to resist.
Ice Harmonics [SUP]Frost[/SUP]: Unless you are going to adventure in snowy areas or you are able to produce ice easily, this is pretty much worthless.
Haunting Melody [SUP]HoH[/SUP]: Nice effect that activates by spending a bardic music performance. You can render opponents shaken with a DC that scales depending on your bard level and the duration is based on your perform ranks. Great for fear stacking party tactics.
Requiem [SUP]LM[/SUP]: As with green ear, but this has more offensive applications. You can even bestow fear effects to undead with this. Because undead player characters are more common, you'll gonna need this if you want to be influenced by your own songs.
Music of the Outer Planes [SUP]LoM[/SUP]: This is ok if you are in an aberration-heavy campaign, but not so useful otherwise.
Arcane Accompaniment [SUP]PHB II[/SUP]:Lingering song is strictly better.
Inspire Spellpower [SUP]RoS[/SUP]: It's not that useful, +1 caster level is average.
Appraise: Don't bother with this skill. You may want however to spend some ranks in it for the magical appraisal skill trick.
Balance: Spend 5 ranks in balance, so that you won't be flat-footed when balancing.
Bluff: This skill has many social uses, but make sure to spend 5 ranks for the great synergy bonuses. It's worth it to max it out.
Climb: Romeo surely had ranks in this skill. It's up to you :P.
Concentration: This is an essential skill to any spellcaster. You can skip it only if you select melodic casting.
Craft: What does a charismatic musician has to do with crafting? Skip it :P.
Decipher Script: Only put ranks in here if you want to fulfill a requirement.
Diplomacy: You can easily have an optimized check in this skill, due to the synergy bonuses. Not only it's useful in many social situations, you can use it to haggle according to complete adventurer, which gives you a 10% reduction on the asking price.
Disguise: This is nice to have, but you can get a really huge modifier with spells.
Escape Artist: If your size is small, you may want to spent some ranks here to help your grapple checks.
Gather Information: You may want to spend some skill points here. Typically bards are people who can learn stuff by snooping around.
Hide: Straightforward. Spies generally make use of this frequently.
Knowledges: Personally i max out one specific knowledge (arcana, religion or nature probably - depending on the character's flavor) and spend at least one rank in the rest knowledges, especially those that have to do with identifying creature types. Collector of Stories is a nice skill trick to use with a wide array of knowledges.
Listen: It's a given if you are going to be a scout. Weirdly enough, bards haven't got spot as a class skill.
Move Silently: This is usually paired with hide.
Perform: This is the most important skill to the bard. I'd actually max out perform in more than one instrument, like singing/string instruments.
Profession: Oh come on :P.
Sense Motive: Spend at least 5 ranks for the synergy bonus to diplomacy.
Sleight of Hand: If you are using the conceal spellcasting skill trick, you'll may want to spend a few ranks here. Otherwise, it's not that useful, unless of course you like picking up stuff.
Speak Language: Not worth spending a lot of ranks here. Pick up a few weird languages to communicate with your allies with more secrecy. Make sure to pick up most popular languages, as many bard abilities and spells are language dependant.
Spellcraft: This shouldn't bother you, but it is usually listed as a requirement for prestige classes and feats. A few ranks will do the trick.
Swim: I think romeo could swim, too :P.
Tumble: Spend a few ranks here, as it makes you able to maneuver in the battlefield safely, without provoking AoOs.
Use Magic Device: Absolutely max this out. It's one of the most versatile skills you'll have. It has great possibilities.
Collector of Stories Since it is best to spend a rank in each monster-identifying knowledge and this easily boosts all of them, it's a nice skill trick to have.
Conceal Spellcasting: Great if you're dealing with counterspellers, if you need to get an offensive spell without others noticing. Maybe it works while you are in stealth.
False Theurgy: I like this better than conceal spellcasting, at least if you don't want people to understand what spell you are casting. There is no roll involved.
Listen to this: Nice to have if you are scouting/spying.
Charm person helps getting people obey your commands. You can employ some disabling spells, like hideous laughter or grease. Silent image is an awesome multi-purpose spell, great when dealing with less intelligent opponents. Improvisation is a must and you can share it with you familiar if you have one. Inspirational Boost is essential if you are planning on optimizing inspire courage. Shock and Awe is great on a wand, no save and if you have optimized your initiative modifier almost ensures that your party will act first. Targeting ray along with inspire courage is great coupled with allies that trade accuracy for extra attacks (like manyshot archers).
Alter self is an awesome offensive/defensive/utility spell. Animal messenger is useful on a eternal wand for your messaging needs. Glitterdust wins battles. Mirror image is a nice defensive buff. Curse of impending blades is good on a eternal wand, but just compare it to a glitterdust. Dark way is another spell you can pick if you are delving into difficult dungeons, or you like climbing to ladies' balconies with ease (and rather flavourfuly). Entice gift is interesting when used on low-willed opponents to move them out of strategic position (e.g. flanking) or disarm them. Grace is average for bards. Harmonic Chorus is only good if another powerful spellcaster is in your party and it's situational. Iron silence is only good on a wand, don't take it as a spell known. Know vulnerabilities is nice. Lively step will increase your travelling speed, get it on an eternal wand if you want it bad. Reveille is great if you want to act like that pushing daisies guy, but get it on a stick. Sonorous Hum is perfect if you want to get multiple duration-concentration spells. Whirling Blade is awesome on a wand and as a spell known. Keeping blades with wand chambers that have eternal wands of whirling blade inside them is a nice idea. You can hit more enemies (and position better) if you apply sculpt spell to this.
Dispel Magic is awesome, as always and you are a full caster. Glibness will almost ensure that your lies will go through. The first spell you should pick is haste though, too good to pass on that. Hymn of praise/infernal threnody during the buff period can add significant time to long duration buffs.