The Best Music Stand for 2021 That Deserves a Standing Ovation

The Best Music Stand for 2021 That Deserves a Standing Ovation

A musician relies on their tools, and that doesn’t just mean their instrument: from necessary items like strings and direct accessories like guitar straps, to performance fundamentals like microphones, players understand that investing in proper equipment can make or break a practice session or concert.

For musicians that play while reading music, something else to pay attention to is a stable stand that sturdily and conveniently displays sheet music.

Features to Consider in a Music Stand

Music stands have a pretty simple design, but there are still some big variations between different options, yielding plenty of decisions to be made when headed out shopping. Think about the following factors when looking around:

Stability

One of the most embarrassing things that can happen to a musician is a stand or sheet music malfunction during a performance. It’s for this reason that a stable, solid stand is so important. Invest in something that stands up straight or you might come to regret it when it fails at a suboptimal time.

Bookplate

The bookplate is the top part of the stand — the part that physically holds onto your sheet music. These are typically collapsible on portable stands or flat for static ones. Pay attention to how the angle can be adjusted up or down to help you get the best look at your music. Also make sure it is sturdy.

Weight

Weight is a two-edged sword, with a heavy stand making portability difficult but helping with stability. Whether you want something lightweight or heavy is up to you and your needs, but even portable stands need to hit a minimum weight requirement to be sturdy enough to support a full-sized music book.

Height Range

Stands range in size, with some meant for seated players, others for standing players, and some with enough flexibility for both. Understand what kind of player you are and what height stand you need before purchasing.

Type of Retention Mechanism

There are two main mechanisms that keep a stand at a fixed height: friction clutches and adjusting knobs.

  • Adjusting knobs need to be manually unscrewed to adjust height, then you can re-screw the knob to hold the stand in place.
  • Friction clutches are more convenient, just pushed up or down to adjust height, but they can’t hold heavy weight as well as stands with screw-in adjusting knobs.

Form Factor

There are two major types of sheet music stands: portable and static.

  • Static music stands are structurally sturdy, can hold a significant amount of weight, and don’t fold up for transport.
  • Portable standards break down, but can’t hold much weight and aren’t as sturdy.

At the end of the day, music stands vary quite a bit more than the typical person expects, and for that reason, you should do some research before purchasing.

Consider the factors above to help decide what you’re looking for before choosing one of the products we’ve outlined below.

Top 10 Best Music Stands 2021

1. Best Overall Music Stand: On-Stage SM7211B

On-Stage SM7211B

Editor’s Rating:

5 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

This orchestra-style stand is designed for strings players but great for musicians looking for a bombproof stand that can handle both heavy weight and heavy use.

Quick Specs:
  • Form Factor:Static Stand
  • Retention Mechanism:Adjustable Knob
  • Height Range:24 - 45 inches

This universal music stand is a true musician’s stand, meant to be functional, sturdy, and durable. Designed for orchestra musicians, it can be effective for other types of musicians as well: guitarists, singers, and more.

Height and angle adjustment are controlled by two knobs, one on the main support shaft and another one near the bookplate: slightly emphasizing stability and durability over convenience. Keep in mind that it only extends to a maximum height of 45 inches, which might be short for standing players.

While this stand won’t take an atomic blast, we’d take it in a ‘drop test’ over expensive stands like the rosewood On Stage Stands Conductor Stand, as while rosewood delaminates and breaks, this aluminum bookplate bends and dings, then bends back into place.

That’s a tremendous advantage if you want something that holds up to many years of abuse, especially if you’re looking for a stand that can hold heavier books or even tablets.

Pros

  • Functional, sturdy, and durable music stand
  • Designed for orchestra musicians but multipurpose
  • Holds heavier books
  • Aluminum bookplate can deform and be bent back into place

Cons

  • Maximum height of 45 inches is short for standing players
  • Knob-controlled adjustment is less-than-convenient

2. Best Music Stand for Orchestras: Manhasset Model #48

Manhasset Model #48

Editor’s Rating:

4.5 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

This stand is the worldwide standard for orchestra musicians in schools, colleges, and amateur orchestras.

Quick Specs:
  • Form Factor:Static
  • Retention Mechanism:Friction Clutch
  • Height Range:26 - 48 inches

If you’ve ever played in a school or university orchestra, chances are that you’ve used this stand. Manhasset has been pumping out models like the #48 since 1935, and they’ve been lapped up by schools, colleges, and amateur orchestras around the world ever since. Representing an intersection between durability, economy, and utility, they’re not too pricey but still last for years: there’s a reason they’re so popular with larger orchestras.

The retention mechanisms are all friction-based, helping with longevity by reducing the number of moving parts. Unfortunately, this friction retention system on both the bookplate and the stand neck wears out over time, ultimately leaving the stand more or less unusable.

It all stands upon a welded steel base, which is nice if you’re looking for a stand that won’t go anywhere, but makes things difficult if you’re frequently going to be moving around as an individual or regularly changing the layout of your orchestra. It doesn’t fold up or break down, which makes it more or less damage impermeable, but for this same reason, it shouldn’t be used as a portable practice stand.

Pros

  • Incredibly popular stands for schools, colleges, and amateur orchestras
  • Welded steel base is incredibly stable
  • Friction based retention mechanisms increase functionality
  • Highly resistant to damage

Cons

  • Doesn’t fold up or break down
  • Not great for use as a portable practice stand

3. Best Premium Music Stand: On-Stage Wooden Conductor Stand

On-Stage Wooden Conductor Stand

Editor’s Rating:

4.5 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

This durable, heavy-duty stand has a rosewood backing plate that keeps music in place and serves as a beautiful backdrop for any player.

Quick Specs:
  • Form Factor:Static
  • Retention Mechanism:Adjustable Knob
  • Height Range:24 - 45 inches

While this product is certainly a beautiful music stand, some might say it’s a little excessive, especially considering an expensive rosewood is used as the bookplate.

To buyers who might be hesitant, we say that plenty of people buy music accessories for beauty: from grand pianos to guitars to stereos, plenty of objects of use can turn into objects of art. Especially if you’re playing with a natural wood instrument like an acoustic guitar, a violin, or cello, this stand can work beautifully.

But beauty isn’t it’s only redeeming feature, as the stand also has a phenomenal construction yielding a sturdy base and an immovable bookplate. Everything is adjustable down to the millimeter, of course, but the stand is rock solid. It’s living proof that a heavy weight on a music stand can be a good thing, especially if you’re interested in purchasing something that stays in one place.

We’d recommend it for conductors, who might also consider the Musician’s Gear Deluxe Conductor Music Stand, as well as those with acoustic stringed instruments.

Pros

  • Rosewood bookplate is beautiful and works well with acoustic instruments
  • Heavy weight helps with stability and durability
  • Sturdy base and bookplate
  • Great for conductors and those with stringed instruments

Cons

  • Quite heavy and difficult to transport
  • Could be excessive and overly expensive for some

4. Best for Long Sessions: Musician’s Gear Deluxe Conductor Music Stand

Musician’s Gear Deluxe Conductor Music Stand

Editor’s Rating:

4.5 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

This stand is designed for orchestra conductors and will pay back the gentle care you give it tenfold.

Quick Specs:
  • Form Factor:Static
  • Retention Mechanism:Adjustable Knob
  • Height Range:24 - 45 inches

There are two types of durability: the first one, indestructibility while being used by many, as is the case with the Manhasset Model #48 Stand, and the second one being a stand that can last ages, but needs care to work well.

Think about it like this: the first option is a Casio G-Shock, the second is a Rolex. One thrives when given little attention, the other thrives when given a lot. This stand is the second type, needing some delicacy but rewarding you greatly when that love is returned.

It’s actually designed for orchestra conductors — people whose job it is to work with a music stand many hours a day. Its steel bookplate has a thick, two-inch lip, which is large enough to hold many hours and books worth of music.

Its legs are tri-fold, meaning it’s virtually impossible to topple and won’t tilt with the addition of weight or time. It’s heavy, but that’s good: it’s meant to stay in place. Adjustability comes via screw-in knobs, which isn’t always preferred for durability, but if you’re the only one using the stand, it should be fine.

Pros

  • Durable bookplate and sturdy construction designed for conductors
  • Indestructible stand can last ages when cared for properly
  • Bookplate has two-inch lip that can hold heavier weights
  • Tri-fold legs are very stable and difficult to topple

Cons

  • Requires a bit of delicacy for the ideal operation
  • Quite heavy weight and format
  • Screw in knobs have some durability issues

5. Best Music Stand for Guitar Players:: D&A Guitar Gear Bullhead+

D&A Guitar Gear Bullhead+

Editor’s Rating:

4.5 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

This anything-proof stand has a broad base that makes it nearly untippable; the manufacturer gives it a phenomenal weight rating. It’s even recommended for use with laptops.

Quick Specs:
  • Form Factor:Static / Portable Hybrid
  • Retention Mechanism:Adjustable Knob
  • Height Range:32 - 50 inches

Looking for something that will stay upright in a hurricane? This is your music stand. Its thick construction, broad base, and heavy weight are all features, not bugs, meant to make sure your music and stand will stay perfectly in place as long as you can.

Five legs assure a solid base, with the odd number meaning it will never rock back and forth. It’s sturdy enough to hold larger weights (big music fake books, for example) and even comes with a label stating that the stand is suitable for holding laptops: not many music stands can give that degree of confidence when holding weight.

It has one of the only sheet metal foldable bookplates we’ve ever seen, making it solid and allowing it to support sheet music while still breaking down. But the best aspect is one we’ve never even seen before: this music stand doubles as a guitar holder, with supports for the body of the guitar and its neck.

That makes it excellent for live gigs where you’ll be reading music while using two different instruments (an acoustic and an electric, for example) or when playing a concert where you both sing and play. If you’re using it in your home, however, we’d probably recommend a separate music stand and guitar stand.

Pros

  • Static and portable hybrid stand has one of the only folding bookplates out there
  • Great for playing a concert when you use multiple instruments
  • Includes a holder for guitars
  • Stand is suitable for laptops and heavier music books
  • Five legs yield a sturdy base that doesn’t wobble

Cons

  • Heavy weight, difficult to transport
  • For home use we’d recommend a separate music stand and guitar stand

6. Best Budget Music Stand: On-Stage Tubular Tripod Base Stand

On-Stage Tubular Tripod Base Stand

Editor’s Rating:

4 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

This portable stand solves the issues with the fragility of similar stands by adding durability to telescoping shafts and beefing up the folding mechanisms.

Quick Specs:
  • Form Factor:Portable
  • Retention Mechanism:Adjustable Knobs
  • Height Range:20 - 52 inches

This lightweight and completely collapsible music stand is perfect if you’re looking for portability over everything else. It manages to be quite sturdy in spite of its telescoping shaft, tripod leg base, and adjustable bookplate.

It comes fully assembled and stays that way when broken down, simply expanding outwards from an intuitive folding, telescoping design that can get packed down to fit in its included bag. It’s even got two small hooks on the outside of the bookplate that are designed to hold sheet music in place. Offered at an affordable price, it’s a good pick for those who need an economic option.

Thanks to its light weight and portability, however, it has some problems with stability and holding weight. While it has no problem holding standard sheet music, you’ll have a tricky time holding heavier music books as well as enduring heavier weather conditions (wind, for example).

That means this will probably be off the list for outdoor performers; the propensity for it to bend under load or when it falls over means it is a poor choice for orchestras as well.

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Quite sturdy in spite of telescoping shaft and tripod base
  • Can be folded down to be stored in the included bag
  • Really inexpensive

Cons

  • Can bend under load
  • Not the most stable of stands
  • Not great for orchestra performers or musicians who play outdoors

7. Best for Seated Players: Gearlux Collapsible Orchestra Music Stand

Gearlux Collapsible Orchestra Music Stand

Editor’s Rating:

4 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

This budget-minded stand is both sturdy and collapsible, although it doesn’t break down as far as other similar products.

Quick Specs:
  • Form Factor:Static
  • Retention Mechanism:Adjustable Knobs
  • Height Range:28 - 48 inches

Gearlux isn’t necessarily a heritage name in musical supplies and accessories, but since the company’s inception, they’ve dedicated themselves to producing inexpensive yet high-quality musical supplies, products, and accessories for amateur musicians.

While this stand doesn’t approach the price of high-level stands, it does get pretty close in terms of quality. Although we’ve categorized this stand as a static stand, thanks to the fact that the book-plate (the top part of the stand) doesn’t fold down, Gearlux designed this stand as a midway point between portable and static stands. That makes it good for some applications but sometimes feels like more of a compromise than it needs to be.

It’s got an adjustable height range of 28 to 48 inches, so while it’s good for seated players, a maximum height of four feet is probably a bit short for many standing players. With an adjusting knob to change height, it holds a good amount of weight, although it’s less convenient to adjust than stands with friction clutches. The bookplate can be rotated up to 180 degrees, great for changing the angle of the music itself.

Pros

  • Collapsible music stand that is both sturdy and inexpensive
  • Adjustable height range of 28 to 48 inches
  • Bookplate can be rotated up to 180 degrees
  • Midway point between portable and static stands

Cons

  • Adjusting knob is more difficult to change around than a stand with friction clutch
  • Four foot max height is a bit of a compromise

8. Best Portable Backup: On-Stage Folding Stand

On-Stage Folding Stand

Editor’s Rating:

4 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

This inexpensive stand is a great accompaniment for someone who already has a main fixed stand for home use.

Quick Specs:
  • Form Factor:Portable
  • Retention Mechanism:Adjustable Knobs
  • Height Range: 26 - 40 inches

If you’re looking for something inexpensive, lightweight, and portable, this stand is an awesome choice for you. Meant to fold down to a size small enough to fit in the back of an instrument case, this stand opens up to full size with a height large enough to work for even standing musicians. It’s adjustable as well, with screw-in knobs controlling height and keeping the specs locked into place.

However, as a lightweight portable stand, it’s a bit fragile to use full time. The small metal rods that comprise its construction are easy to bend, and once bent, cause problems related to stability.

Because of these issues with durability, we’d recommend it as a backup portable stand as opposed to a main static one. If you’re looking for something with a low price but that’s a bit more permanent (a static stand, for example), the sentence will serve you well.

Otherwise, though, this stand won’t hold up to too much abuse and will need to be taken care of if you’re trying to maximize the amount of time you get out of the product.

Pros

  • Low priced stand is inexpensive, lightweight, and portable
  • Great as a backup stand that is light enough to move around
  • Screw-in knobs control height and lock in your ideal settings
  • Max settings can accommodate taller musicians

Cons

  • Static stands hold up better to larger weights
  • Doesn’t withstand abuse without bending

9. Sturdiest Portable Stand: Hercules Stands EZ Desk Compact Folding Music Stand

Hercules Stands EZ Desk Compact Folding Music Stand

Editor’s Rating:

4 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

While many portable music stands are so lightweight that they struggle with durability and stability, this foldable stand is designed to break down but still maintain structural integrity.

Quick Specs:
  • Form Factor:Portable
  • Retention Mechanism:Adjustable Knobs
  • Height Range:20.8 - 47.2 inches

Portable music stands have a universal problem: they bend easily, tip frequently, and never have enough weight to give them decent stability. This portable stand largely resolves the problem by adding a bit of beef and weight, creating a structure that’s heavier and more solid than other portable stands.

Obviously, that comes at the penalty of weight and space, as this doesn’t compact down as well as other music stands, but the durability it has relative to other portable stands is phenomenal.

It has three vertical telescoping components that all fold into each other, yielding a format that folds up but still gives great support for music. But as a ‘skeleton’ style stand that has massive hollow spaces in the bookplate, it won’t be great in the wind even if you add a solution like clothespins. We also don’t trust it to be stable enough for an electronic tablet.

Although it has downsides, it includes a carrying bag that aids with transport.

Pros

  • Three vertical telescoping components all fold into each other
  • Skeleton style stand makes sure it stays relatively lightweight
  • Includes carrying bag for transport

Cons

  • Holes in the bookplate make it difficult to use outdoors in the wind
  • Not sturdy enough for heavier books or electronics

10. Best Clamp-On Music Stand: K&M Clamp-On Music Sheet Holder

K&M Clamp-On Music Sheet Holder

Editor’s Rating:

3.5 of 5 stars

Why we like it:

This music stand doesn’t have its own base, rather clipping onto a mic stand to create a comfortable music holder that is easy to view and highly compact.

Quick Specs:
  • Form Factor:Static Stand (Clip-On)
  • Retention Mechanism:Adjustable Knob
  • Height Range:N/A

Most singers probably own a separate music stand and microphone stand, but if space or portability is a factor, something that combines with the microphone stand itself might be the way to go.

Not only does it make setup and takedown easier, it also can help with the ergonomics of a recording setup. Placing a music stand in front of a microphone often causes cables or the microphone stand itself to block your view, while this stand makes viewing easy and helps make sure you get an unobstructed view of the sheet music or lyrics you’re looking at.

One issue, however, is the fact that the clip-on stand can interfere with sound quality. If you’re recording yourself singing and bump the stand, it will leave vibration sounds that can’t be removed post-production and thus ruin the recording.

And while the mechanism that anchors the bookplate to your mic stand is sturdy, the universal design is a bit clumsy and yields a connection that is workable always but perfect never. Thankfully, the bookplate is solid and sturdy.

Pros

  • Microphone stand doesn’t block the view of the music stand
  • Keeps cables and microphone stand out of the way
  • Doesn’t need to be folded up, just breaks down
  • Can help you to create a more economical recording setup

Cons

  • If you bump the stand, it could leave recording artifacts
  • Design used to fasten bookplate is a bit clumsy

Frequently Asked Questions

A friction clutch provides just enough resistance that you can adjust the stand’s height by manually pushing it up or down while an adjusting knob stand uses a screw to change height. Our advice? If you’re purchasing a hand for home use, pick up something with a friction clutch, where if you’re shopping for a larger musical group where products will be used for multiple years, pick up something with an adjusting knob.

Your first option is to buy a stand like the On-Stage Stands Tubular Tripod Base Sheet Music Stand which has built-in devices to keep books of sheet music open. If you don’t have one of these books of sheet music, you could use magnets, although magnets typically work best with a static stand and a thin book of music. Finally, you can buy a music clip or even use a clothespin to keep the book open.

Roughly, the top of your stand should be a little below eye level, although different music teachers might have slightly different ideas on exactly how much that should be. Talk to your music teacher or look up instrument-specific guidance for the best results.


Guide to Buying the Best Music Stand for 2021

If you’re a musician that reads sheet music, at some point or another, you’ll need to pick up a music stand.

Whether you’re looking for something portable or something permanent for your practice space, a little bit of thought into your needs and the available options can go a long way for something that will be part of your musical equipment arsenal for years.

Picking a Portable or Static Stand

The truth is most serious musicians choose to own multiple music stands for different purposes. While many starting musicians might opt for a portable stand, as it can hypothetically also serve the purpose of a static stand, we’d strongly recommend that the first stand you purchase is a static stand. Although they can be pricier, they’re more versatile and can hold all of your music.

Portable stands are just that: highly portable. With included bags, light weights, and clever designs meant to fold up small enough to be carried around unobtrusively, they’re just for travel. That makes them phenomenal for hauling around, but the fact is that they’re not stable enough to hold music well. Most musicians will only use them when they’re highly pressed for space. Static stands should be used whenever possible.

Music Stands for Performance

Different musicians and performers who play in different environments obviously look for accessories with different characteristics. We address some of the most common music environments below.

Music Stands for Orchestras

Orchestra stands should be sturdy and uniform. Pick a static stand over a portable one, and invest in something that can take day after day of abuse. When buying a lot of stands, though, economy is sometimes important, and price occasionally needs to be sacrificed for other features.

Music Stands for Studio Musicians

If you’re buying a stand for a home or professional studio, get the heaviest, sturdiest, and most durable thing you can find. As you won’t be transporting it around, extra weight yields no penalty.

Music Stands for Street Performers

While street performers and buskers often choose to prioritize portability over sturdiness, they’ll still need something that can work in all weather conditions. Something relatively light weight that can fold down is nice, but even more important is something that can hold up to the rigorous demands of outdoor performance. For a good compromise, we like the Gearlux Collapsible Orchestra Music Stand.

Music Stands for Live Music

Live musicians who play with a stand are probably divided down the middle in terms of whether they use a portable stand or a full-size static one.

If you’re packing light, you can typically get away with a portable stand, as most venues have a controlled, wind-less environment. If you’re already packing heavy, though, with a drum kit and other van-filling accouterments, it doesn’t hurt to add a static stand.

Music Stand Tips and Tricks

Musicians have been using music stands for long enough that they’ve come up with some hacks, tips, and tricks to get the most use out of them. We’ve compiled some of the best and most clever ideas below:

Warm Up Cue Card

Most musicians have some kind of warm-up to help get the blood flowing and to get used to their instrument. Take the time to create an index card with your warm-up and tape it to your bookplate so you’re never without the practice steps you need to get the music flowing.

Use a Stand Extension

Looking for more space on your music stand? Think about picking up a stand extension, which allows you to have more horizontal space to spread out music, notes, and accessories like reeds, bows, highlighters, and pencils.

Clothespins

Music book folding up? A pair of clothespins placed over the stand, clamping down on the bookplate and the sheet music, keeps things in place. While they’ll protect from most hazards (breezes, stubbornly-folding books), watch out, as they make quick page turns trickier. Other people get unconventional with holding music in place.

Go Electronic

It’s a lot harder for a tablet to blow away or curl over than a regular sheet of music, and nowadays there are apps and online resources for displaying digital music. There are even music stands made with tablets or laptops in mind: take the On-Stage Stands SM7211B, which advertises itself on being able to hold weight.

Wrapping Up

While some types of musicians might not read sheet music, the vast majority of classical musicians and a good chunk of contemporary musicians read, write, or create with some type of notes or sheet music. That’s where a stand comes in: holding the music in a comfortable and adjustable format so that you can always see what you’re playing. Whether you need something portable or you’re looking for something for your studio or practice space, there are plenty of fantastic options available for you.

Team MusicVibe

Whether it be the heady sonatas of a lone violin or the thrashing distortion of an amped-up guitar, we here at MusicVibe have an ear for it. Our team has performed gigs, played in concerts, and spent a lifetime fiddling with soundscapes in their bedrooms. They know a musician is only as good as their gear – and that musicians don’t just need the best gear, but they need the right gear for them. We help beginners find their feet in their first foray into the world of frets and fiddles, and give experts a leg-up in finding that studio-defining kit and most importantly, getting the best out of it. We’re here to help you play out your tune, so enjoy our library of content so you can hit the high notes.