Let’s get one thing straight. Not everyone needs music stands, portable or otherwise. Most bands rely on rehearsals just so they can avoid having to look at sheet music during their performance.
The exceptions include if you are practicing at home and if you plan on playing at a symphony orchestra – pretty much any compositions so long and so annotated that you can’t be expected to memorize them all.
Therefore, if you’re a student learning music theory, or if you play classical music for a living, having a quality music stand is mandatory.
But the question remains, what does a good portable music stand for a traveling musician make? – A combination of factors, which I’ll highlight soon enough.
6 Best Portable Music Stands - Sturdy Options
Check out the following reviews to get my two cents on the best portable music stands that pretty much anyone can afford.
The OnStage SM7211B is a fully adjustable, portable, and foldable music stand with good stability and a larger bookplate. The 13.5” x 19” bookplate is suitable for single page sheet music, music books, and wider sheets.
The build quality of the parts belies its affordable price. Although the leg housing is made of plastic, the base itself undoubtedly has a nice amount of heft to it.
It's structurally sound enough to safely hold heavy binders, music sheets, books, laptops, tablets, clip-on lamps - you name it. Most music stands in its price range, at least the ones I've used, cannot be trusted with a laptop, at least.
Its compact size and easy adjustability makes it a great solution tight spaces. Not just tight spaces, it's a great music stand for outdoor gigs as well. Strong wind and a flimsy music stand don't really get along well.
Unless it's super cyclone kind of situation, rest assured that this stand is going to hold its ground, literally. I did find it a bit heavy to lug around, though but that's a trade-off I can live with. Traveling with the stand, in general, is a non-issue, thanks to the foldable legs.
You can adjust the legs or fold the stand away by simply by fiddling with the wing nuts. The height is adjustable from 24 up to 45 inches which is a decent range for both short and tall people. Plus, it won't scratch your flooring, thanks to the non-slip rubber feet.
The presence of the rubber feet also gives the stand exceptional stability when you are moving it around. I could assemble the whole thing in a snap as there were only two main components to deal with.
It also has a 2” return lip which will help support a thicker book even in an upright position. I didn't notice any sharp edges on the tray .The knob rotates smoothly and locks into place without much effort.
You can also adjust the angle of the bookplate or platform tray. It adjusts up to 90 degrees which means that you can use the SM7211B music stand for concerts and for studying.
2. Donner DMS-1
The Donner DMS-1 is a collapsible music stand made with portability in mind. It can accommodate any touring musicians who are dependent on sheet music.
The stand is adjustable between 19.1 and 46.4 inches in height and is a little north of 4 feet tall at the highest setting. While this should be enough for kids and short adults, it's not suitable for tall people.
What if your sheet music and everything else you need for your jamming sessions is on a laptop? The stand base is wide and robust and can hold an ultra-lightweight laptop and iPad with ease. But if we are talking heavy-duty laptops, it's not the sturdiest option around.
You can use the 90-degree angle adjustment knob to position the platform tray completely flat, upright, or at any convenient angle in between. This makes reading the sheet music effortless, no matter whether you're playing standing or sitting.
To top it off, a rugged carry bag, a clip holder, a USB cable, and a cool rechargeable double-headed sheet lighting are all included. The light provides plenty of illumination and even lets you adjust the brightness.
You shouldn't have to break a sweat to cart it around even with a thick book resting on it. And I also loved how quickly it folds away for easy transportation. Assembly doesn't take more than a couple of minutes.
For regular use like carrying music sheet, DMS-1 stand has good stability due to its tripod base, which is also adjustable. Also, The platform tray is a beefy 1.2-inch tray which should accommodate sheet music for almost any instrument.
Nonetheless, I won't recommend using it outside though, especially if the wind is blowing strongly. It can topple over the stand and lead to a situation you don't want to deal with.
Another negative that the screws that hold the metal clips are located on the top side. This inevitably creates an uneven surface for the sheets.
However, somebody I work with bought the same stand and his model didn't have this issue. So I figured this is more of a manufacturing defect than a design flaw.
Gearlux offers this music stand in two varieties: solid top and vented. While some people prefer vented bookplates for the stability, I recommend going with a solid top when possible. It improves the overall durability of the music stand and offers better protection to your sheet music.
Compared to many other sheet music stands, the solid-top Music Stand by Gearlux is quite lightweight. It’s just what you need for traveling purposes. Moreover, to keep the base from scratching your floor, the legs come with rubber covers.
It’s also adjustable in height (28 to 48 inches) so it can be used when sitting down on a standard chair, couch or standing up. I am 6'2" and I found it tall enough for me. Once I'm done, I can just remove the tray, collapse the legs in a snap, and move on with my life.
Another major positive of this stand is that part that holds the music sheet is made of metal and therefore, magnetic. It allows me to use magnets to hold my loose sheets in place while gigging outside on a windy day.
The bookplate tilts and swivels using the three knobs located at the top of the stand. It has good depth, enough for books and thick binders, and width to accommodate two-page sheet music. It can effortlessly handle the weight of my 5.5 lbs. laptop when I'm practicing.
The tilt-lock mechanism could use some improvement, though. When assembling the stand, I found the flat music holder slightly tilted to the left. Not a deal breaker for me but still mildly annoying. The unit comes assembled for more parts. There are really just two pieces to put together.
The adjustment knobs are made of hard plastic and have hold up well so far. Some might not find plastic knobs as reliable as metal knobs. But in my experience, the plastic knobs work much better unless you go rogue on them.
This ChromaCast music stand is among the most affordable options for professional musicians. It's a pretty lightweight stand which is great for portability. Don't mistake its lightweight build for structural weakness, though.
The bookholder can handle the weight of iPad and a small laptop just fine. However, I'd refrain from putting a heavy laptop on it.
The bookplate tilts 90 degrees and the holding area measures 11.5” x 20”. It’s just about as big as they come and likely more than you need for a wide range of instruments.
The addition of a metal spring arm extensions to hold different parts of the page in place was a nice touch. You can use it for outdoor gigs without any problem, thanks to its wobble-free base but strong wind can definitely make the legs wiggle.
You see, it weighs only about 5 lbs. The added weight of the music sheets would be enough to prevent tip-overs in normal breeze but I won't risk using it when the wind is too strong.
The unit assembles and collapses in a jiffy, making it a perfect travel companion for musicians.
The ability to adjust the height is standard in music stands, and this one delivers more than most. It has a height range of 28 to 52 inches. That’s almost 4 and a half feet at the top end, which should be enough for taller musicians at full height, unless they have particularly bad eyesight perhaps.
I didn't have any problem lowering the height when I wanted to play sitting on a regular couch. In any event, the height range is enough for the average adult and kids.
It even comes with a little bag which I found rather shoddily made. But the clamp-on LED light is very well-made and has adjustable brightness which makes it even better.
The only thing I don't like about the stand is the quality of the turn knobs. They are a bit flimsy, so applying brute force to twist them could potentially break them.
Another excellent low-budget option that's suitable for most gigging situations. It includes two flexible spring-loaded arms that allow you to lay the music book open flat. There's also a separate clip included to hold the pages in place.
Thanks to the high-quality clips and solid tilt-lock mechanism, the plate can securely hold my 300-page hard cover music book, 3-ring binders, iPad Pro as well as my laptop. I loved how easily I can tilt it to any angle for easy viewing.
Its lowest height setting is 18” and up to the highest point of 41”. That should be enough for the average person. However, it might not accommodate all musicians taller than 5'8", which was a bit unexpected. On the bright side, lower height settings can benefit kids a lot.
The stability is good, even at max height setting. The tripod base is finished in non-slip rubber caps, which should improve the adherence to virtually any surface.
However, heavy wind can easily blow this lightweight rack over. If the wind velocity isn't insane, you can use it for outdoor playing without much thought.
The compact, travel-friendly stand is easy to put up and down. It takes only a couple of seconds to collapse the legs and pack everything into the gig bag.
When folded, the unit is about the size of a pasta sauce can. It even comes with a nylon carrying bag. The fabric is too thin and the zipper is subpar. I won't recommend using it unless you don't have any other option.
6. Eastar EMS-1
If you’re looking for a very rugged portable music stand, the Eastar EMS-1 may just fit the bill. It’s a bit heavier than other models in this price range, but it also offers greater support and stability. I personally think it's the best portable music stand for outdoor gigs, especially in windy conditions.
The plate is made of metal, which means you can use magnets to stop the pages from turning over - a small but significant addition, I must add.
The structurally-sound frame makes it a decent choice for 100-page song books and music. you can also adjust the tilt of thee plate from fully flat position to fully upright position to minimize the eye strain.
For sheet music and light books, it's a brilliant option. But I won't recommend it for heavy stuff like those 400-page books, super heavy-binders, or laptops.
Even when raised to the highest level, the stand won't be tall enough for people over 5'6". But since it was for my 12 year old nephew who is learning to play drums, the height adjustment was perfect for my purpose.
When fully collapsed, the stand measures 21.5”, which is a very good travel size. While the height adjustment knobs works fine, tightening the desk adjustment knob takes me quite a bit of effort.
The travel bag is included and so are a few other accessories such as a light, USB cable, and a clip holder. The zipper bag is surprisingly impressive and the clamp-on light has just the right amount of brightness for reading the sheets in low light conditions.
My package didn't have any assembly guide but I didn't need one. The process is pretty self-explanatory and it takes me only a few minutes to assemble and disassemble the whole thing.
What You Need in Terms of Measurements
You can’t say that one music stand is better the rest based on height. But you can say that a taller music stand is best-suited for you if you play your instrument standing up, if you’re tall, or if you have poor eyesight.
As for the other dimension, the width of the tray or bookplate is very important. The wider the tray, the more types of sheet music it can accommodate. Some bookplates may only support single-page music while others can support two or even more pages simultaneously.
Build Quality is Important
Music stands are made of plastic, metal, or a combination of both. Metal would obviously be the best choice for any traveling musician. Metal stands can survive a few hard knocks and still work flawlessly after you take the stand out of the bag.
On the other hand, ABS plastic music stands are lighter and the well-built ones can also be just as tall or as stable as metal stands. They are also cheaper for the most part. But, they are not ideal to carry around between performances. They’re best suited for studying at home or at school.
Are There Any Required Accessories?
You’re going to need something to hold your music sheet in place. You might also want a carry bag but you won’t need anything too fancy with thick padding or a hardcase. However, a rugged bag will always be better than a flimsy bag for obvious reasons.
Some manufacturers also offer lights, clip holders, replacement parts, and other accessories. A music stand light is not always worth paying a premium for since you can easily improvise one at home or get a cheap one online. In any event, have you ever seen an ill-lit classical music stage?
Probably not. Besides, reading sheet music in poor lighting conditions is not a good studying habit to develop.
Never Miss a Note Again
Have you found what you have been looking for? – These portable music stands all offer a good balance of quality and performance. And, as you can see, very few of them cost more than a pack of good guitar strings.
It’s up to you to decide which stand is best for you, so I’m not going to beat you over the head with it.