What exactly makes a group a "power trio" in your opinion?

Dang. I’ve started more threads in the last couple weeks than I have in the last several years. This one came out of a personal discussion re my other recent topic.

What makes a rock group a “power trio?” I have always thought of the instrumentation. Guitar + bass + drums = power trio. When I brought up The Who’s Quadrophenia to a friend, I described them as “basically a power trio.” I was immediately informed that they are NOT a power trio at all. Apparently, having a vocalist disqualifies a group from being a power trio. Wikipedia seems to agree.

I don’t get it. A group can be a power trio if they have no vocalist, an instrumentalist who sings, multiple instrumentalists who sing, or even zero people who sing, but they cant’ have a dedicated singer?

I mean, I consider The Who, Led Zeppelin, and Cheap Trick to be power trios (as long as Robin Zander doesn’t fiddle around with a guitar). EL&P is not a power trio by my definition. If it’s a Led Zeppelin instrumental, are they a power trio for that song?

Am I out of my mind?

But what they can’t have, is four members, like The Who.

It’s everybody’s personal definition of course, but for me a power trio is a rock band with the instrumentation of electric guitar, bass and drums. If one of the instrumentalists or a fourth person sings is irrelevant.

This was my thought as well.

Let’s see what Wikipedia says…

Yup. Three performers only; guitar, bass, and drums.

Sounds like an “augmented trio” ( ie, 3 + 1)
(or “quartet”)

I’ve always understood power trio to mean a rock group with exactly three members. The usual instruments are lead guitar, bass guitar, and drums.

The Canadian group Rush did some songs with lead guitar, synthesizer, drums, if I recall correctly, and that works too.

The number in the band shall be three. Four shall not be the number. Two is good, if the count doth continue to three. Five is right out.

Love it!

“Trio” by definition means “an ensemble of three people.” If you add a fourth person, it’s not a trio; it’s a quartet.

Can we then have a suspended quartet that’s made of three members?

Aside from the fact that, naively, a power trio is a kind of trio, and a trio by definition has three members, this points to the other problem with four-member power trios: you’d have to restrict the vocalist to a completely non-instrumental role. Are they still a power trio if the lead singer shakes a tambourine or takes a harmonica solo? Does Queen become a power trio the moment Freddie gets up from the piano to strut around the stage?

OP again.

I think that perhaps I concentrate on the word “power” as the operative part of the term. In my mind, the instrumentation is what is “powerful.”

Then again, I’m often wrong. My wife has explained this to me at length.

Ok, all the people stating a trio by definition can’t have other than three people are surely technical right, but I still pack the Who and Led Zep into the same bag with Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Disagree. If there’s a dedicated singer, they’re a quartet, not a trio, IMO. Power trio = guitar+bass+drums, no more, no less. And those specific instruments - if it’s bass, drums and synth, it’s not a power trio.

Conceded, see post above.

I see the Wiki list of power trios lists The Young Gods, that’s so wrong it’s not even funny.

I believe that the whole point of a power trio is that springs from garage band roots. Three young dudes got together with nothing but their instruments, vocals and balls. They could put everything in a car and go play a gig. Sort of like ZZ Top.

But you run into problems when the instrumentation only sometimes changes, so that the bass player plays keyboards in some songs or the guitar player blows some harmonica (Rush was mentioned). What about one of my favorite bands, Motorpsycho? The core of the band are Bent Saether on bass and Hans Magnus Ryan on electric guitar with both singing, and they always had a drummer (the drummer position in Motorpsycho is as volatile as that in Spinal Tap, every five years or so they have a new guy). They mostly work in the power trio format, but occasionally, they had second a guitarist or a dedicated keyboarder. I’ve seen them live four times, three times as trio and one time with an additional keyboarder. In each of the trio concerts, every member had a small keyboard in front of them somebody switched to besides their other instrumental duties from time to time. Are they a power trio?

ETA: I think the same goes for the Police. They had a lot of keyboards on their later albums, and someone must’ve played them on stage. I don’t know how they handled it in their days, I only ever saw them one time on their comeback tour in 2008, when there were only three people on the stage, but I can’t remember who handled keyboard duties (if any?).