Christian Sands grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, and later moved to the nearby Orange. He started playing the piano at a very young age, and took lessons from the age of four; he commented that "I grew up with it in the house, in the classroom and on stage so it has always been a huge part of my life".
Sands was mentored by pianist Billy Taylor, who allowed the teenager to close one of the sets that Taylor played at the Kennedy Center. Sands went on to study at the Manhattan School of Music. The school's Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, led by Bobby Sanabria, recorded the album Kenya Revisited Live in 2009; it was nominated for a Latin Grammy.
After graduating, Sands joined Inside Straight, one of bassist Christian McBride's bands; they have toured internationally.
Sands became a Steinway artist in 2012. In 2014, Sands cited as influences McBride, Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Garrett, and Marcus Roberts, because "They're coming from the tradition of bringing people into the music, but also moving it forward into new directions". In the same year, Sands became an American Pianists Association Jazz Fellowship Awards Finalist.