Most guitarists will find that they need some good guitar stands (or more than one ) to help keep their instruments safe and - perhaps even more importantly - ready to play. Sure, you can lean your guitar up against your amp or a chair, but trust me on this - it’s only a matter of time before that guitar slides off the chair, and you’re dealing with a couple of broken tuners or, even worse, a broken headstock.
There’s really no excuse not to have at least one “el cheapo” stand in your practice area. These are stands that have a u-shaped cradle that holds the neck of the guitar and another -u-cradle that holds the body of the guitar. These will typically have rubber tubing on the parts of the stand that touch the guitar (be careful - since these stands aren't recommended for guitar that have nitrocellulose finishes). They're easily transportable and will have a tripod base sort of like a camera stand.
The stands also often have a little plastic hook that can help hold the neck in place. The advantages to these stands is that they are very inexpensive and are good alternatives to, well, having nothing at all - they can usually be found for less than $10. The disadvantages are that they’re easily knocked over and aren’t very “kid” friendly.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to the traditional u-cradle stands. One of my personal favorites (and the type that I use myself) are made by a company called Hercules Stands. For many players these stands have become the de-facto new standard for quality, safe stands. Rather than resting in a u-cradle and having the neck supported by another u-cradle, the standard Hercules stand lets you “drop’’ the guitar neck into a cradle that locks the neck into place by the guitar weight - what Hercules calls the “auto grip system.” The body then simply rests against the stand at an angle. To remove the guitar, you have to physically lift it out of the neck support cradle.
It sounds complicated, but really, it’s a breeze to use and it’s not something that a curious three-year old will be able to easily defeat (that’s the voice of experience talking - my little boy ran around my stands all the time without incident). The Hercules stands are, as you might expect, more expensive than the traditional type of stand (around $50 or so).
Other alternatives are so-called “A-Frame” stands. These tilted stands have a small footprint and support the instrument by a couple of “hooks” that cradle the guitar body in front and a small support area for the back. Supporters of the A-Frame stand like them because there is minimal contact with the instrument and also because the stands themselves take up little room. I’ve owned a couple of A-Frame stands and while I’ve never had a problem with them, I personally am a little leery of putting a $2,000 guitar on one, but that’s just me.
Another decision you’ll need to make is whether you want to get a single or multiple stand (or both). If you like to keep more than one guitar out at a time, then a multiple stand makes sense. There are different types of these stands available as well. You can find traditional u-cradle guitar stands that hold two or three guitars (depending on their design, I believe that multiple guitar stands can be more stable than single stands, but as always, it depends upon the quality of the manufacturer as well as the design itself).
Hercules makes multiple stands that use the Auto Grip System, though my personal favorite multiple guitar stand (again, made by Hercules) is more of a traditional multiple guitar stand in that it’s a foldable rack that can hold anywhere from 3 to 5 instruments, both electric and acoustic. A popular choice (and one I’m looking to buy for myself someday) are “guitar case stands” that look like, well, guitar cases when packed up, but when unpacked become guitar stands that are sturdy and provide a solid base for your instruments.
As always, it depends upon your needs. If you have multiple guitars that need a safe “home,” then a quality multiple stand is a good investment. And if you’re like me, you’ll find that you can use both a single and multiple stand for various purposes. If at all possible, try to avoid the cheap $10 stands and invest in at least one good quality stand that will protect your instrument from bumps and curiosity of others. :)