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Power trio

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Power trio

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The power trio is a rock and roll format popularized in the 1960s.

The rise of the power trio was made possible in part by developments in amplifier and guitar technology that permit the guitar to provide more sound than before. Particularly, the advent of electric bass guitar defined the bottom end and filled in the gaps. Perhaps the first embryonic "power trio" may have been Buddy Holly and The Crickets, whose onstage sound relied on a driving rhythm section that underpinned Holly's guitar and voice. A true power trio has one lead guitar, one bass and one drummer.

However, the prototypical power trios were exemplified by The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream. These two groups laid down the framework for all other subsequent power trios; extended improvisation, hyperamplification, and the use of effects (such as delay, distortion, etc.) to round out and modify the group sound. Quite often, power trio music reflects a blues or jazz influence, since these two types of music invite improvisation.

During the late 1960s, many groups used power trio instrumentation while adding a vocalist. These could include The Who, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath. Although none of these were ever particularly identified as power trios, the music that they created is influenced by, and follows the same musical format as, many of the pioneering power trios.

"Canadian Power Trio" Rush in concert in Milan, Italy (September 21, 2004) "Canadian Power Trio" Rush in concert in Milan, Italy (September 21, 2004)

The traditional power trio has a lineup of guitar, bass and drums, leaving out the rhythm guitar or keyboard often featured in rock music. However, some power trios also experimented with keyboards and sequencers in the studio, most notably the Canadian trio Rush, whose bassist-frontman Geddy Lee has often demonstrated his multi-instrumental capabilities on diverse rock albums such as 1977's A Farewell to Kings and 1985's Power Windows. Modern digital technology has also enabled a power trio to duplicate their studio performances in concert, as evidenced by Rush's 1989 live album, A Show of Hands, where Lee simultaneously sings, plays bass, and plays keyboard with foot pedals. This technology, in combination with their style and production, have given the band the nickname of "Canadian Power Trio".

One of the longest-lasting and most popular power trios is ZZ Top. Beginning from their roots as a blues-oriented, Cream-like power trio on albums such as Tres Hombres, the band increased their audience through a series of hit songs and albums. In many cases, the music of power trios is ignored or minimized by the music industry, but with a combination of wit, image, and musical dexterity ZZ Top became one of the few power trios to attain widespread popularity. Like Rush, ZZ Top has often used technology to expand their band's sound, but have never forgotten their blues roots. Unlike many power trios, ZZ Top also injects a deliberate element of humor into their music, which may account for part of their continued popularity.

Power trios have been characterized as loud and bombastic, often embarking on long improvised jams. Typically, vocals and songwriting were less important than instrumental performance or overall impact. Compare, for instance, the Jeff Beck Group, (with Rod Stewart on vocals) with Beck, Bogert, and Appice, a similar lineup without a significant vocalist. The latter was called a power trio, whereas the Jeff Beck Group was not. The emphasis on guitar solos and crashing rhythm sections in the power trio contributed to the development of heavy metal, although some power trios would prefer hard rock labels.

Some 1970s British groups, such as Genesis and UK began with larger lineups, but eventually became keyboard-oriented trios in the mode of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. However, due to the absence of a lead guitarist, these progressive rock groups are not usually considered 'true' power trios.

Perhaps the most famous power trios include the aforementioned Rush, Cream, ZZ Top, and The Police.

Other well-known trios from the 1970s and 1980s include Budgie, Grand Funk Railroad, Triumph, Blue Cheer, Cactus, Glass Harp, Motörhead, The Minutemen, West, Bruce and Laing, and the Robin Trower Band. Although power trios fell out of fashion during the 1980s, some continued to emerge well into the next decade, such as King's X, Green Day, Jawbreaker, and Nirvana.

The 1990's edition of King Crimson toured as an alleged "double power trio," (according to leader Robert Fripp) with two drummers, two bassists and two guitars. The traditional power trio continues to be represented by newer groups such as Gov't Mule and the North Mississippi Allstars, among many others who have sprung out of the jam band scene.

Prominent power trios

die Ärzte
Alkaline Trio
Beck, Bogert & Appice
Blue Cheer
Divlje Jagode
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
Glass Harp
Gov't Mule
Grand Funk Railroad
Green Day
Hot Tuna (when electric}
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
The Jam
The James Gang
King's X
Los Lonely Boys
John Mayer Trio
The Mods
The Police
Robin Trower
Violent Femmes
West, Bruce and Laing
ZZ Top

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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