Music stands come in many varieties and styles, and can be made from many different materials. But with few exceptions, they all share the same basic parts. From the bottom up, these consist of the “base”, the “shaft” and the “tray”.
The base of a music stand usually has three legs and can be either a tripod or a standard fixed base design. A tripod base attaches the upper legs to the shaft partly up from the floor, with three lower contact points on the ground. These types of legs are almost always foldable or collapsible. Virtually all folding and portable music stands are designed this way. A stand with a standard base also usually has three points of contact on the ground, but the other end of the legs is usually steel welded to the bottom of the shaft. This will give the stand more stability, but will sacrifice the stand’s ability to easily fold into a smaller space for more convenient transport. Most of the stands found in schools are of this type.
The center part of the lectern, which connects the base to the tray, is the spindle. If the bracket is height adjustable, the shaft most likely has two tubes, one inside the other. These tubes will be telescoped and then locked to the desired height. If a bracket has a standard base, then the shaft is most likely a “one-piece” design. That is, the outer tube will be in one piece and will not collapse below the minimum clearance height. If a stand has a tripod base, then it may have a one-, two-, or three-piece shaft (or more). Multi-piece shafts will telescope down to a very small size for easy transportation, or the pieces will separate and therefore take up much less space next to each other. Naturally, the one-piece spindle is considered the strongest, however spindles for portable and folding music stands have gotten much stronger in recent years.
The part of a sheet music stand that actually holds the music is commonly called the tray or “desk.” The tray mainly consists of two parts. The vertical backrest is called an “ex libris” and is usually a single solid piece or is built from several interconnected bars that have spaces between them (as in folding stands). The horizontal support (which prevents the score from falling to the ground) is called a “shelf” or “lip”. The average depth of a shelf is approximately two inches, but this can vary depending on the intended use of the stand. If a musician intends to read music from books, for example, a support with a deeper shelf would be needed. The shelf usually comes as a single attached piece or in two parts that fold together in the middle. The entire tray (ex libris plus shelf) may or may not be adjustable for tilt angle and varies in size and strength.
Sheet Music Stand Differences
These are the basic parts of the vast majority of music stands you will find. Most of the exceptions will be in favor of artistic design and will come from stands that are very beautiful, but sometimes not easy to transport. Some examples include music stands with solid bases (without legs), dueling rod music stands, and jazz or big band style cardboard music stands. And since there are a lot of sheet music stand designs out there, having an understanding of the basic operation of one of the most important equipment a musician will use is helpful for two reasons. It is always important to increase your general musical knowledge; Familiarizing yourself with these specific terms will allow you to better compare different media for your own musical needs.