If I need to practice, I grab the music I need to work on, my sax, and sit down in front of a music stand to practice. The purpose of a music stand is simple; hold the music so you can read it. I have found other ways to prop the music up, tape it to the wall, or set it on a table to see it, but I always end up playing incorrectly when I do. Leaning over something, looking around the edge of the bell, or bending over to see the music while standing is never a good position to be practicing, and will not help your development into a better player. Not having a music stand also will limit the time you could practice by adding unnecessary fatigue.
I believe every musician needs a music stand. Developing proper hand position, increased breath control and avoiding health issues like carpal tunnel syndrome or neck and back issues can be as simple as practicing your instrument correctly. Many older musicians can attest to this fact. Years and years of doing the thing you love incorrectly can really add up to some huge health issues later in life, and it starts when you are young.
My favorite music stand for home use–I don't have to move it around–is the classic Manhasset M48 metal music stand. These stands fill every school band room in America and will last forever, if you don't drive over them with a truck. I don't bring mine out of the house though, because the Manhasset stand doesn't fold down at all, so portability isn't its strong suit.
I own two other types of music stands for use outside the house at work and rehearsals.
A folding stand that can hold a music book requires the stand to be pretty solid. Music stands like the Peak Music Portable Music Stand, Musicians Gear Heavy Duty Folding Stand and ProLine GMS80A Music Stand are examples of great folding stands that have folding bases and single-piece tops that hold the music securely and can fit into a larger gig bag for transport. These are the stands I bring to gigs every day.
The third class of music stands is not the most robust but the most popular kind of stand made–these are the lightweight metal folding stands like the ProLine GMS20 music stand. These stands work fine for sheet music but aren't as effective for bigger music books. I always have a lightweight music stand in my car. You never know when a rehearsal will come along where they don't have music stands, so I bring a lightweight folding stand "just in case."
I prefer a black finish on my music stands over the steel color because a black stand fits in on stage and doesn't look insubstantial like a silver stand might. Some stands will include a carrying bag like the Hamilton Nu Era music stand. A little bag is a nice addition to your music stand for keeping all the parts clean and looking new and it only adds a little bit to the cost.
The bottom line is this: We musicians all need a music stand to practice and sometimes to perform with. The three styles of stand offer you different advantages based on what you will use the stand for and whether you need to move it around or not.
If I had just one music stand, it would be a folding-base stand with a solid top. You can use this type of stand at home and easily move it to rehearsal when needed. But whatever you do, make a small investment on a music stand and use it often!!