A power trio is a rock and roll band format having a lineup of guitar, bass and drums, leaving out the rhythm guitar or keyboard that are used in other rock music to fill out the sound with chords. While one or more band members sing, power trios emphasize instrumental performance and overall impact over vocals and lyrics.
The rise of the power trio in the 1960s was made possible in part by developments in amplifier technology that greatly enhanced the volume of the electric guitar and bass. Particularly, the advent of electric bass guitar defined the bottom end and filled in the gaps. Since the bass could also now be louder, the rest of the band could also play at higher volumes, without fear of being unable to hear the bass. This allowed a three-person band to have the same sonic impact as a large band but left far more room for improvisation and creativity, unencumbered by the need for detailed arrangements. As with the organ trio, a 1960s-era soul jazz group centered around the amplified Hammond organ, a three-piece group could fill a large bar or club with a big sound for a much lower price than a large rock and roll band. A power trio, at least in its blues-rock incarnation, is also generally held to have developed out of Chicago-style blues bands such as Muddy Waters' trio.
In addition to technology improvements the other impetus for the power trio was the virtuosity of guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Rory Gallagher who could essentially cover both the rhythm and lead guitar roles in a live performance. The first and prototypical power trio was the band Cream consisting of Eric Clapton on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass/vocals, and Ginger Baker on drums. Other influential 1960s-era blues-rock/hard rock power trio bands were The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Grand Funk Railroad and Taste. It was also common to add a dedicated vocalist to the power trio format. The best known examples are The Who and Led Zeppelin. Well-known 1970s-era power trios include the Canadian progressive rock group Rush, the American band ZZ Top, the British heavy metal band Motörhead, and the Robin Trower band.
After the 1970s the phrase Power Trio tended to be stretched to accommodate just about any band with a guitar, bass, and drums. From New Wave groups like The Police to grunge band Nirvana and pop-punk bands such as Green Day and Blink-182.
- Larson, Tom (2004). History of Rock and Roll. Kendall/Hunt. p. 183. ISBN 978-0787299699.
- Hoffman, Frank (2004). Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound, Volume 1 (2 ed.). CRC Press. p. 248. ISBN 9780203484272.
- Olsen, Andrew. "An Interview with Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad". duluthreader.com. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
- Cariappa, Shiv (January 8, 1997). "Interview With Gerry McAvoy". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 22 June 2013. "In the late 1960's, two music groups, Taste and Cream, blazed trails as definitive examples of rock's power-trios."
- UPI (December 11, 1974). "New Rock Music Trio Coming on Strong". The Dispatch. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
- Clark, Dick (July 15, 1983). "The Police: An Arresting Power Trio". Milwaukee Record-Journal. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- Organ trio: a three-person soul jazz or jam band group centered around the Hammond organ
- Power duo: two-piece rock band often described as a power trio without the bassist