DIY Big Band Music Stand

Build your own music stands

by Henry Mason and Hector Bourg with additional content provided by
H. "Scooter" Ward upon completion of his stand build.

Mr. Ward has contributed a video containing additional
information about his project. The article below is a revision of the original article and contains some improvments and revisions to make the process easier. This is especially true of step 4 which now includes more precise measurements.

(Great for Practice...can be used for performance!)

While I was in Atlanta, we had a problem with the music stands that we used for rehearsals.They were made of cardboard and simply did not stand up to wear and tear. We ended up having to throw money at the problem several times and buy a new set. The last time we were ready to order a new set, we found that the manufacturer had quit making them. We decided to make a project out of it and forever end the problem by making rehearsal stands that would hold up.

While many bands are content to rehearse using concert band style metal stands this is not a good idea if the band uses professional road band style fronts for gigs. The metal stands are too high and the transition to road fronts for the gig is somewhat of an adjustment which in turn reduces concentration on the matter at hand which is getting the gig played.

These instructions were formerly to be found on the SJO website in slightly different form but for unknown reasons have been removed. I have received so many inquiries about the project's disappearance that I have decided to continue it here. I was co-conspirator on the original project along with the late Hector Bourg, a first class designer and illustrator. He did all of the drawings and I took the pictures and wrote the copy. Since moving to North Carolina I have served as project manager for building several sets of these stands , and there are improvments in the instructions and pictures which reflect that experience.

While we were researching materials, someone brought in a real estate sign made of corrugated plastic. After many phone calls we found that this material was available in a suitable thickness to make music stands out of.

Our goal was to make 14 horn stands or "fronts" all the same size to functionally duplicate the professional stands we used on the gig. By doing it this way there is no transition adjustment from one style of stand at rehearsal to a different one on the gig. Our professional stands follow the standard of the road bands such as The Glenn Miller Orchestra,the Basie Band, Les Brown and others.

All stands are a uniform 24 inch height so that the horns play OVER the stand and not into it. Bands using higher stands tend to be muffled by blowing the horns into the music paper.

Note to bandleaders, if you incur whining about not being able to see the music, the solution is single vision music glasses (NOT BIFOCALS!) cut to about 60 inches distance. This ends the problem, sitting or standing and is a far better solution than having your horn players looking like they are hiding behind excessively tall music stands.

The great road bands did most everything they did for good reasons and the 24 inch music stand is no exception. Excessively tall stands or (worse) metal stands for the horns behind the saxes look "high school". If you want your band to get work go the extra mile to look as well as sound professional ( end rant!)

Height and angles of our do-it-yourself stands match that of our regular on-the-job stands and with a bit of decoration these could be used for performances. At best though, while lightweight and easier to handle they don't look nearly as good as the more substantial and somewhat wider professional equipment although many bands do decorate and use them as they are easy to handle.

Since we built these several companies have produced similar stands for sale. If you have more money than time we suggest buying a set. We were short on cash when the need arose and a similar product was not commercially available at the time. It takes about a day for two people to build a set and it is a rewarding project for a person with handyman skills, and for a band on a tight budget these will answer very well.

The commercial name for the plastic is "Coroplast®" and similar products are available from different companies under other names. It is to be found at sign supply companies. Your local signmaker will usually order the material for you and has the equipment to make the initial cuts.

Each stand is made up of a base and a desk. Each sheet of Coroplast will produce either 4 bases or 8 desks. To produce fifteen stands you will need to purchase:

6 sheets of 4' x 8' (6mm) Coroplast® corrugated plastic
NOTE: You MUST use 6mm material. 4mm is too thin and 10mm is too thick.
1 quart of Contact Adhesive
3 or 4, cheap, 2" paint brushes (for applying adhesive)
1 roll of white duct tape (optional)

You will also need:
A jigsaw
3/8" chisel (SHARP)
1.5" chisel (SHARP)
One 2' x 4' piece of 3/16" plywood (for making a pattern), assorted scrap pieces of plywood and 4 old door hinges for building a bending brake and a hole punching jig. (More on this later!)

Optional tools if you happen to have a well equipped shop or a friend who does would include the following.
o 2" chisel
o 1/4" chisel
o Galvanized Corner Bead (goes on bending brake for smoother bend)
o Small nails to tack the corner bead on the 2x4 on bending brake
o Scroll saw
o 3/8" or 5mm plywood
o Hammer (two if two people are building the stands)
o Using Level to assist scroll saw
o Saw horse
o C clamps (3" or larger depending on size of work table)
o Tape Measure
o Framing Square
o Drill w/ 3/8" drill bit and drill bits for hinge screw pilot holes on bending brake
o File for smoothing edges on pattern

We highly recommend making a prototype stand so that you can ensure everything fits together properly before mass production. Having a prototype that works will allow trying both parts of each new stand with known good parts and will prevent you from wasting material.


Start with a 4' x 8" sheet of Coroplast. This is a corrugated plastic sheet used mainly in the sign industry. You might check with local sign companies as a possible source, or contact the company that manufacture Corplas for a list of suppliers in your area. The panels come in several thicknesses, but the 6mm thickness seems ideal for the purpose described here. Too thick and it won't bend...too thin and it won't make a sturdy stand.


Mark off and cut into four, 4' x 2' pieces. They MUST be cut as shown in order for the “flutes" to be vertical. Cut all 7 sheets in this manner. You will then have 28 pieces measuring 2 feet x 4 feet Set these aside for now and proceed to ...


Mark the 2' x 4' piece of plywood as shown and cut.
Note... the distance from the tab to the slot for the desk is 10 7/8 inches


You should have a piece that looks like this. This will be your pattern for marking the Coroplast.

Note... the distance from the tab to the slot for the desk is 10 7/8 inches The distance from the edge of the jig to the bottom of the desk slot is 3 3/4 inches


Place plywood pattern over a 2' x 4' sheet of the Coroplast. Begin tracing.

Use a thin "Sharpie" or other pointed marker to carefully trace the pattern.

Be sure to make a mark inside each of the two notches. You'll need these tick marks to line up the pattern when you flip it over to trace the other side.



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