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Rock Trio

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Commonly found in rock-and-roll lineups, a rock trio is a band of three members: the lineup is typically one playing guitar, one playing bass and one playing drums. The rock trio is essentially rock and roll with a bare minimum of musicians, with one member, usually bass and (almost) never drums, doubling on vocals and the guitarist doubling the rhythm and lead parts. The rock trio is thus commonly found in bands that stick to Three Chords and the Truth, though the format had its roots in bands that were more experimental with their music.

The rock trio took off in the 1960s thanks to developments in amplifier technology that allowed for the volume of guitars and bass to increase. From there, the format was popularized in the blues-rock and hard rock genres before spreading to prog rock in the 1970s and falling in popularity in the early 1980s. In this first wave, the format was commonly used by bands that engaged in long, intrinsic improvised solos and bombastic jam sessions. This version of the rock trio contributed heavily to the development of heavy metal, especially power metal. Some bands at this time (i.e. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath) took a "3+1" approach, having a core rock trio with a fourth on vocals. Prog rock also introduced a variation that swapped the guitar for a keyboard (i.e. Emerson, Lake & Palmer), while keeping the same general idea.

After the original wave fell out of favor, the format was later adopted by punk rock and grunge bands in the late 80s and throughout the 1990s, finding the stripped-down ensemble to fit perfectly with their stripped down approach to music. Several notable punk bands from this time still exist today. The rock trio also continued to remain popular in progressive rock, though prog as a whole was in a down period at this time. Today, the rock trio continues to be used in all varieties, as well as in bands that use it as their core while adding supporting instruments and a dedicated vocalist.

It should be noted that a rock trio is more commonly known in the music industry as a power trio but that name is already used as a trope. Not coincidentally, the rock trio is itself a subtrope of our Power Trio. Musically, it could be compared to a Freudian Trio in that the drums focus on the beat (Superego), the guitar focuses on the melody (Id) and the bass reconciles the two (Ego), though this says nothing about the personalities of the musicians themselves. Despite the name, the rock trio is not strictly limited to rock bands: Several pop and metal bands have taken the general idea of the format and made it work.

Note that many rock trios often add "touring" musicians for live shows, especially on second and subsequent tours. Typical choices are a second guitarist to handle the rhythm and harmony parts created by overdubs by the principal guitarist in the studio or a keyboard player to handle song elements (lush synth pads, vintage organ, piano) that can't be recreated live by the basic setup. A multi-instrumentalist who can switch from guitar to keyboard to a wind instrument (sax) is also a common choice. These touring members often contribute additional auxiliary percussion (shaker/tambourine) and backing vocals to tracks where additional guitar or keyboards isn't required.

Sometimes touring members become official members at a later stage leading to the band evolving beyond the rock trio concept. Sometimes if the trio's identity as three founders is deemed too important to allow a fourth touring member onstage, the touring member may play hidden offstage and have their sound added into the mix by audio engineers.note 


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    Anime and Manga 
  • K-On! College has the band OnNa Gumi. Akira Wada is the guitarist, Sachi Hayami is the bassist and Ayame Yoshida is the drummer.
  • Here Comes the Three Angels has Jun as the guitarist (Fender Duo-Sonic), Nozomi as the bassist (Höfner 500/1), and Sora as the drummer (Gretsch bop kit).

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 

  • Airheads: The Lone Rangers are comprised of Chazz on guitar and lead vocals, Rex on bass guitar and backing vocals, and Pip on drums.
  • Metal Lords: the duo Skullfucker makes their live debut as Skullflower through the addition of a girl in the bass equivalent - Emily was a cellist, so she plays the electric cello instead.
  • This is Spın̈al Tap: The band Spinal Tap has more than three members, but guitarists David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel and bassist Derek Smalls get most of the face time in the movie. Besides, being their drummer is such an occupational hazard, the position has an absurd turnover rate.

  • The Band With Rocks In, in Soul Music, have a slight variant: Buddy (magic guitar that can also do bass, vocals), Cliff (drums), Glod (trumpet). They briefly had the Librarian on keyboards, but he left before they were famous.

  • Alkaline Trio: Matt Skiba (guitar), Dan Andriano (bass) and Derek Grant (drums).
  • Irish band Altar of Plagues used to have two guitarists, but are now this.
  • Ash, Northern Irish rock band. Were a originally a three-piece before being joined by guitarist Charlotte Hatherly, who then left and they are now this again.
  • Atomic Rooster, with their first two albums.
  • According to Pete Best, John, Paul and George wanted The Beatles to be this, but were told they couldn't tour without a drummer, hence his inclusion and subsequent replacement with Ringo Starr. Still, the first two songs in The White Album were recorded in that formation as Ringo had temporarily left in struggles (Paul drummed for both tracks, and parts of "Back in the USSR" have percussion by the other two).
  • Beck, Bogert and Appice; power trio featuring Jeff Beck and former Vanilla Fudge members Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice.
  • Better Than Ezra became this after the suicide of guitarist Joel Rundell. Jim Payne has yet to be named an official member. Word of God is that it's been offered to Payne, but he's politely declined.
  • blink-182: Tom DeLonge (guitar), Mark Hoppus (bass) and Travis Barker (drums). In 2015, Matt Skiba replaced Tom.
  • Blue Cheer, with their first two albums. The lineup consisted of guitarist Leigh Stephens, bassist and vocalist Dickie Peterson, and drummer Paul Whaley.
  • Brownsville Station was a trio from 1972 to 1975, consisting of Cub Koda (guitar and vocals), Mike Lutz (bass and vocals), and Henry Weck (drums).
  • Carcass's original line-up was this before they hired a second guitarist.
    • And now, as of 2012, they have gone back to this format.
  • Cream, the likely Trope Codifier: Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker.
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded the album Mardi Gras like this after the departure of guitarist Tom Fogerty. The band fell apart completely afterward.
  • Crosby, Stills & Nash, before Neil Young joined them.
  • The Cure, in their early years. Their albums Three Imaginary Boys, Faith, Pornography, Japanese Whispers and The Top all fall into this pattern, although with increasing use of keyboards and guest musicians as their career progressed.
  • Industrial Metal band Device count as this, consisting of singer David Draiman, guitarist Virus (of Nu Metal band Dope), and drummer Will Hunt. Being Industrial Metal they are an aversion of the Three Chords and the Truth tendencies of this trope.
    • They do feature Tom Morello as a second guitarist on Opinion, and Geezer Butler on Bass for Out Of Line.
    • They also technically have a fourth member as Geno Lenardo actually founded the group and wrote the music with Draiman.
  • Death, a Proto Punk early seventies band made up of three brothers.
  • Destruction are usually this, from 1983 to 1987 and then again from 1999 to 2019 - Mike on guitar, and Schmier on vocals and bass, though three different people filled in for drums.
  • For a time (around the release of their album Making Movies), Dire Straits was reduced to a core of three members after the departure of rhythm guitarist David Knopfler, give or take some additional musicians. Mark Knopfler (David's older brother and bandleader) served as guitarist and lead vocalist, John Illsley served as bassist, and Pick Withers served as drummer.
  • Die Ärzte, with all three singing as well.
  • Dinosaur Jr.'s classic (and current) lineup is J. Mascis on guitar, Lou Barlow on bass, and Murph on drums.
  • Seminal Grindcore band Discordance Axis consisted of a vocalist, a guitarist, and a drummer. There was never a bassist.
  • Following after guitarist Daichi's departure in March 2013, Visual Kei band Disacode is this in a Two Girls and a Guy variant: Akira (vocals) and Marcy (drummer) and Shin (bassist). There are two guitarists playing in the band, but they're support members than official members.
  • The Doors attempted this after the death of Jim Morrison, but it didn't work out.
  • Dying Fetus started as trio, added more musicians, and were down from five to three yet again in 2007, remaining that way ever since.
  • Egg came out of a previous group called "Uriel" or "Arzachel" which consisted of a guitarist, a bassist, an organist and a drummer. By the time they became Egg, their guitarist had left and reduced them to a trio.
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer, right in the name; 2\3 were also part of Emerson, Lake & Powell.
  • Samantha Fish, although she often had guests on her albums, toured as a power trio with Fish on lead guitar and vocals from 2009 till 2017, when she added keys and a couple of horn players.
  • The Foo Fighters recorded their third album, There Is Nothing Left to Lose as this (as they had just fired Franz Stahl; Chris Shiflett came in for the album's tour).
  • The Fratellis are Jon, Barry and Mince Fratelli (though live there is a keyboardist, that doesn't even warrant a Fratelli Stage Name).
  • Genesis started out as a five-man band but were gradually reduced to this: Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks.
  • Grand Funk Railroad, from 1969 to 1971.
  • Green Day (pictured), though the Uno, Dos, Tré trilogy in 2012 had them promoting touring guitarist Jason White as a fourth member (follow-up Revolution Radio had them as a trio and Jason as backup again).
  • Guided by Voices were this on their first album.
  • Hanson, three brothers (albeit with two touring musicians since 2007).
  • Hüsker Dü had Bob Mould on guitar, Greg Norton on bass, and Grant Hart on drums, with Mould and Hart sharing most of the singing and songwriting.
  • Interpol was following the departure of bassist Carlos D. Singer and guitarist Paul Banks took over bass duties for their fifth album, though they now perform with a touring bassist and keyboardist.
  • The Jam - which started as quintet, but when it was time to record albums were just three.
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Jimi Hendrix (guitar), Noel Redding (bass), and Mitch Mitchell (drums).
  • King Crimson for a brief period in the 70s; in the 90s, they billed themselves as a six-man band containing two of these.
  • King's X, albeit when the band didn't have that name they were a quartet.
  • Klymaxx in their 1990 album
  • Los Lonely Boys, who are also siblings.
  • Low, the pioneers of Slowcore. It's married couple Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk, and a rotating bass position.
  • Manic Street Preachers, after the disappearance of fourth member Richey Edwards.
  • Marcy Playground was always John Wozniak on guitar/vocals and Dylan Keefe on bass, and while the drummer position has rotated numerous times, most recently it's Shlomi Lavie.
  • A very rare example from Country Music: McBride & the Ride. They briefly became a six piece band due to Executive Meddling, but the most familiar lineup fit this trope.
  • The Melvins up until 2006 - currently they have four members, two of whom are drummers.
  • Minutemen: D. Boon, Mike Watt and George Hurley.
  • Motörhead, which had always been Lead Bassist Lemmy + 2.
    • Averted while Würzel was in the band, from 1984 to 1995 - he shared guitar duties with Phil Campbell, who stayed and was still in the band when Lemmy died.
  • Muse: Matthew Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dom Howard. Though on stage, there is a fourth to play guitar or keyboards.
  • Mx Px
  • The best-regarded lineup of Negură Bunget was this.
  • The Nice, after the departure of guitarist David O'List.
  • Nirvana: Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and various drummers before settling on Dave Grohl. Before recording albums and during their last tour, they had a second guitarist.
  • Paramore is since December 2010 officially Two Guys and a Girl... though the only time it was performed by just them was in an EP. Between 2010 and 2016, they lacked a drummer; since 2016, they lack a bassist. (and that's not counting the rhythm guitarist on tour)
  • Brazilian band Os Paralamas do Sucesso: Herbert Vianna (vocals/guitar), Bi Ribeiro (bass) and João Barone (drums)
    • Also from Brazil, Legião Urbana became this after their original bassist, Renato Rocha, left and frontman Renato Russo took over his instrument on studio. In fact, Rocha was always a replacement musician; he was brought into the band because, during the recording of the first album, Russo (who was officially singer/bassist) slit his own wrists and could not play.
    • A third example from the country was Engenheiros do Hawaii, which following the departure of The Pete Best were a trio for their first eleven years (their last album in that formation was even Gessinger, Licks & Maltz). Then the guitarist left, and a keyboardist became a full member to grow the band to 4.
  • Pato Fu started with just singer-guitarist-bassist and a drum machine, becoming a quartet by adding an actual drummer for their second album.
  • The band Pezz, currently known as Billy Talent, started as this before bringing Ian D'Sa in to play guitar so Ben Kowalewicz could stick with vocals.
  • Pig Destroyer used to be an unusual example: just vocals, guitar and drums, forgoing bass altogether. In more recent years they've had a fourth member in charge of noise and samples and later, added an actual bass player.
  • The post-Roger Waters Pink Floyd could count - though it was not the traditional setup (a guitarist, a keyboardist, and a drummer, and the first two sung) and lead to hired bassists (and extra singers for touring).
  • British band Placebo was this on their peak years, with additional members on tour. After a small revolving door of drummers quit, the band remained stayed a two piece consisting of the remaining founding members.
    • Same thing with Feeder after their original drummer was Driven to Suicide and their second one quit after creative differences.
    • That has also happened to Chevelle, though only with their bassists instead the drummer.
  • The Police: Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland.
  • The Presidents of the United States of America was the Face of the Band "basitarist", a "guitbassist" and a drummer, all three singing every once in a whle.
  • Primus is Les Claypool, a guitarist (particularly Larry LaLonde, who has been in the band since 1989), and a drummer (the longest-running of which is Tim Alexander).
  • The 1980s Chilean rock group Los Prisioneros
  • Before all the others, there was Elvis Presley, guitarist Scotty Moore, and bassist Bill Black. Drummer D.J. Fontana joined later to make the trio a quartet.
  • Rage's most iconic lineups have all been rock trios, especially the classic lineup of Peavy Wagner (bass/vocals), Manni Schmidt (guitars), and Chris Efthimiadis (drums).
  • R.E.M. after the departure of drummer Bill Berry, albeit padded out with session and touring drummers.
  • Remo Drive started as a duo until Sam Mathys was added to the band, making them this trope. Then he was fired following the band's first full-length album, reverting the band into a duo for their second album. Mathys was later replaced with Sam Becht, but it's unclear if he's an official member: although he's credited as a member on their third album, he doesn't seem to be acknowledged by the rest of the band or their promotional material as one, and he seems to have less creative input in the band than Mathys ever had.
  • Revocation, at least until they hired Dan.
  • Rush: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart.
  • Sick Puppies, with the only constant being bassist Emma Anzai.
  • Botswanan heavy metal band Skinflint consists of Giuseppe Sbrana (guitar/vocals), Kebonye Nkloso (bass), and Alessandra Sbrana (drums).
  • Sleater-Kinney, for most of its career, has been a guitar-guitar-drums trio, with no bassist. After longtime drummer Janet Weiss left the band in 2019, the band became a duo, using session musicians to augment their sound.
  • Sodom are probably the best known Thrash Metal rock trio, having operated as from 1981 to 2018, which is when they finally started operating with two guitarists.
  • Soft Machine, from 1967 to 1969. Their debut was recorded with a trio lineup, and their second record, though featuring Brian Hopper on alto and tenor sax as a fourth player, still only lists the core three as full-time members. Amusingly, by the release of their third album a year later the group for a short while went from formally being a trio to having as much as seven members, adding four brass players to the lineup at once.
  • Sleep started out with four members but were most successful after the departure of one guitarist.
  • Stray Cats. The minimalism extends to drummer Slim Jim Phantom, whose usual kit comprises a bass drum, snare drum, and one crash cymbal - which he plays standing up.
  • The Supremes: A rare all-vocalist version, especially their music in The '60s.
  • Switchfoot was this for their first three albums. Their fourth member joined just before they hit it big, and the fifth joined just after.
    • The same thing happened with Snow Patrol, which was a trio during their indie phase. Though the band was also a six-piece for a brief period after.
    • And for the respected indie band Modest Mouse as well, though they've become a five-piece prior to their biggest hit and evolved into an eight-piece recently.
  • Sunny Day Real Estate were this on their album The Rising Tide.
  • Heavy metal band Tank started this way in a line-up similar to Venom and Motörhead (vocals/bass, guitar, drums). Just like them they later added a second guitarist, but while Venom and Motörhead returned to three members, Tank not only remained with two guitarists ever since, but they eventually expanded to five members as in 2008 they replaced founding bassist/vocalist Algy Ward by Chris Dale and Doogie White respectively (of course, unless you believe Algy, who claims he is the only member who owns rights to use the name).
  • The Tea Party, the recently reunited 90s Canadian alt-rock-with-ethnic-flavour trio.
  • A Supergroup case was Them Crooked Vultures, with Josh Homme, John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl.
  • Thin Lizzy, during the Eric Bell-era.
  • The German band Trio actually is a mild subversion because they have no bassist.
  • Triumph, aka "the other power trio from Canada".
  • Uncle Tupelo's original lineup: Jay Farrar (guitar), Jeff Tweedy (bass guitar), and Mike Heidorn (drums).
  • Unlocking the Truth is a metal band consisting of three teenagers.
  • V6, which did the theme songs for InuYasha and Eyeshield 21, contains two with the band releasing albums and touring both independently and as a combined group. This is evident in Eyeshield 21, where the Coming Century trio did the first intro song and the 21st Century trio did the second. The two combined to do the InuYasha theme song.
  • Supergroup U.K. became this for their second album when they decided not to replace their original guitarist after he was fired, retaining a bassist/vocalist and a violinist/keyboardist, and replacing a drummer who chose to exit the group with a new one.
  • Israeli shoegaze band Vaadat Charigim consists of Yuval Haring (guitar/vocals), Yuval Guttmann (drums), and Dan Bloch (bass).
  • Van der Graaf Generator, with their most recent works, Trisector, A Grounding In Numbers and ALT.
  • Venom New Wave of British Heavy Metal band and the progenitors of Black Metal. They briefly performed as a quartet during the late 80s and early 90s.
  • Violent Femmes. The classic lineup consisted of Gordon Gano (guitar), Brian Ritchie (bass), and drummer Victor De Lorenzo.
  • The Warning three sisters from Mexico
  • Wolfmother's original formation. When the band came back, it was now a four-piece.
  • Wolves in the Throne Room's original line-up was this, before they got a bassist in. They were also this at some other points of their history, but they're currently a duo consisting solely of the Weaver brothers.
  • XTC became one after the band retreated to the studio and drummer Terry Chambers left. They used studio drummers for their albums from that point on until David Gregory finally left, leaving them a duo.
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs is Karen O (vocals, piano), Nick Zinner (guitar, keyboards) and Brian Chase (drums). They tour with a second guitarist, David Pajo.
  • ZZ Top, a.k.a. "those two bearded guys and the drummer (named Beard)".

    Video Games 
  • Roxie (bassist) from Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 is the lead singer of a band (named Koffing and the Toxics in the anime) and her fellow band members Billy Jo (guitar) and Nicky (drums) are also trainers at her gym.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Double Homework, Uncle Tommy, the protagonist, and Morgan for the last hurrah concert for Uncle Tommy’s band (in Morgan’s epilogue). The original band, though, had four members.

  • The newly (as of August 2011) reconstituted Deathmøle (if they even choose to keep that name without Natasha around), in Questionable Content, fits the mold with Marten on guitar, Amir on bass and Hannelore on drums. In the short time since they got back together there's been no mention of adding a fourth member again; granted, so far it's just one semi-impromptu jam session, but clearly Marten has bigger plans this time around.
  • Ménage à 3 has Zii and the Troublemakers — Zii on lead guitar, Sonya on bass, Yuki on drums, with the first two apparrently sharing the vocal duties.

    Web Original 
  • Phaeton has the Auds, one with a multiform instrument, one with vocal powers and one who can only make noise by hitting one thing with another thing.
  • In the Strong Bad email, "concert," Strong Bad sees Strong Sad's favorite band, sloshy, prompting this exchange:
    Strong Bad: Were they missing some members? Where was their lead guitarist?
    Strong Sad: Uh, that was the whole band.
    Strong Bad: What!? You're not allowed to have a band with only three people in it!
  • The Nightmare Time episode "Killer Track" has the band Needy Beast, which is made up of Thrash, the lead singer, Rose, the lead guitarist, and Skud, the drummer.

    Western Animation 
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks are sometimes this, depending on the adaptation. When they do, it's Alvin on guitar, Simon on keyboard/piano and Theodore on drums. Canonically, all three are multi-talented with instruments and the later films have had Simon on bass, fulfilling the traditional definition.
  • Josie and the Pussycats replaces the bass with a tambourine. As with Alvin, the film swapped the tambourine with a bass guitar, or rather returned to original comics, where Valerie also played bass.
  • Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost gave us The Hex Girls, a goth rock trio led by Thorn (Lead vocals/Lead Guitar), with Dusk (Drums) and Luna (Bass/Keyboard) on backing vocals. The band has evidently proven popular enough to have been brought back in later iterations of the franchise.
  • The Sonic Boom episode "Battle of the Boy Bands" ends on the main trio playing a rock song: Sonic is the one singing and playing guitar, Tails plays the bass, and Knuckles plays the drums.
  • The Sonic triplets in Sonic Underground, with the bass replaced by Sonia's keyboard.
  • The Powerpuff Girls were one in "Mime for a Change", with Blossom on guitar, Buttercup on bass, and Bubbles on drums and lead vocals, with the other girls providing backing vocals.
  • In an episode of The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, the title character forms one called Short Angry Freuds consisting of herself on guitar, her older brother Dennis on bass, and younger brother Ray Ray on drums.
  • ChalkZone: The main trio, as Rudy & The ChalkZone Band/Gang (the last part changed after Hynden Walch, Penny's speaking voice, took over singing duties for the character from Robbyn Kirmsse, due to the first nine ending songs being written out of Walch's vocal range for Penny) were one in the show's ending music video segments, with Snap on guitar, Rudy on keyboard (instead of bass), and Penny on drums.