I was looking at music stands and a number of them do not have solid backs, rather, they have holes through them, like shown. Are these just for aesthetic purposes, or do they have a practical purpose?enter image description here

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    Probably just to save on weight/cost. – MattPutnam Jan 26 '17 at 23:10
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    And so you can dig the first violins in the back with your pencil.... – topo morto Jan 26 '17 at 23:12
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    This isn't really a music question, is it? – leftaroundabout Jan 27 '17 at 0:41
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    It makes it easier to blow the charts away when shredding. :P – jazzboy Jan 27 '17 at 2:35
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    @leftaroundabout Surely questions about the paraphernalia for a hobby/activity/profession are relevant to that hobby/activity/profession? – Kyle Strand Jan 27 '17 at 20:35
up vote 70 down vote accepted

They save weight. They don't save a large percentage of the overall weight of the stand, but they make it less top-heavy and therefore more stable when raised high or angled back a long way.

Just to expand on the question of "why not just make it thinner?" - the reason for that is because a thicker sheet with holes will be stiffer than a thinner sheet with no holes with the same amount of metal in. It won't necessarily be stronger in every loading mode - indeed it may be weaker in some - but with a structure like a music stand, wobbliness becomes a problem long before breakage does.

  • This makes perfect sense and I am not sure why I did not realize that. Thank you! – tarun Jan 27 '17 at 2:42
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    Also, @tarun, when performing outside, it allows wind to flow through the stand and not take the stand with it. It may or may not be a primary reason, but it's effective. – h4ckNinja Jan 27 '17 at 5:16
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    @Micheal - once there's music or books on it, there won't be that advantage. Don't forget the clothes pegs! – Tim Jan 27 '17 at 8:57
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    @TannerSwett sounds like a business plan! – topo morto Jan 28 '17 at 19:55
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    @TannerSwett Probably because a round hole is considerably easier to manufacture than a hexagonal-grid pattern. Every sharp corner is prone to start cracks – Bowdzone Jan 30 '17 at 7:12

A loose page settles faster on the stand (and is easier to remove) when the air behind it can escape. That's at least the reasoning behind the namesake "vent hole". In practice, this is of relevance at best when you are playing from one large scotched-together wobbly monster sheet. In that case both the settling time gain as well as the removal time may be noticeable: if the monster sheet keels over and peels off the stand, you want it do so while you are still having your hand nearby.

As soon as several loose sheets stack up, the difference is unlikely to be noticeable unless you have static electricity involved.

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    Interesting point, but I don't think this is a reason. Not only is this effect, as you say, completely irrelevant when you have multiple sheets on the stand (as you usually will), it's also not important with single sheets because the bending of the paper as you grab it is enough to quickly vent air behind it. Only if you used music printed on hard cardboard would this matter. — In fact, the only real effect of the venting is a negative one: if playing outside, the sheets are easier caught in the wind! – leftaroundabout Jan 27 '17 at 0:56
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    "one large scotched-together wobbly monster sheet." My favorite. – coteyr Jan 28 '17 at 9:57

I run the sound system at my church, and I have found that the music stands with holes make it easier for the musicians and vocalists to hear themselves in the stage monitors. The solid music stands can block a lot of the sound from the monitors. Of course a thick book on the stand with holes, also blocks the sound. But the sound easily passes through a few sheets of paper.

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    That's only if the monitors are badly positioned. – Micheal Johnson Jan 27 '17 at 23:26

I agree that weight is probably the reason, but that can't be the whole story – you could always achieve a lower mass by just making the stand out of thinner sheet metal.

The problem with that is that it would lack the stability one expects from a proper orchestral music stand, for two reasons:

  1. Strength of elements that are much thinner than wide scales with the square of thickness (while mass increases only linearly). Therefore, if you use just a little bit thicker metal sheet than would be needed as such, you can already cut out a whole lot of weight in form of these holes (which also reduces strength only linearly).
    This is actually the same reason that the stand stands on metal tubing, rather than heavy solid pillars – at the same mass (where you'd rather call the wires), these would be much weaker!
  2. Not all parts of the surface need to have the same strength. In fact most of the forces hinge on the center, where it's attached, and on the edges. That's why there are no holes in the lower center part, and the edges are folding back.
  • 3
    Due to the physics of tension, a thick material drilled out like this can be stronger than a thin material of the same mass. – Cort Ammon Jan 27 '17 at 1:38
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    stiffness is probably of interest, as well as strength. – topo morto Jan 27 '17 at 2:49
  • I'm not at all convinced by point 2. There are no holes in the bottom center, since also the mounting of the foot would cover them anyway and it would look strange. Different thickness would be incompatible with the production method, where simply a piece of sheet metal (same thickness anywhere) is bent. – guidot Jan 27 '17 at 7:46

@topo morto is correct when he talks about weight. It most likely lowers the centre of gravity of the stand, stopping it from falling over. Another major reason is that it would reduce the weight of a shipment of these stands. The weight saving on one stand might only be a few grams, but the weight saving on a container full off these would be significant enough to save on shipping costs.

I joined this StackExchange site just to post this. Not sure why I care.

  • None of us can remember why we care anymore.... if we ever did. Welcome to the site! – topo morto Jan 30 '17 at 8:39

Sam is correct when referring to shipping costs, but has missed out a bit. The less material used in manufacturing, the lower the cost. Also, the metal that would have been in the holes would be used to make more stands from the original metal. Result, Holes mean more manufactured units with a lower unit cost.

When using a music stand with a solid back in a recording studio around super sensitive mics vocalist and other instruments can resonate the stand and you can actually hear it in certain circumstances. The holes seem to cut down on the resonance.

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