It takes special talent to fill the musical space in a trio – but who are the best three piece bands ever?

The Best Three Piece Bands Ever - Nirvana
‘Three is the magic number’, said Hip-hop trio, De La Soul in 1990, on an album called ‘3-feet High and Rising’. Clearly, the number three really worked for them.

This is not always the case in music, however. Things are so much easier in a five piece outfit. You can have a rhythm guitarist as well as a guitarist, for example, and leave your singer to just get on with singing.

The Best Three Piece Bands Ever

Or, if your singer wants to play rhythm guitar, you could do something really fruity, like get an organ or keys player.

The result is generally a big, full sound without too much effort, however, whatever you do.

Things are tougher for three piece bands, though, especially when playing live, without any overdubs to pad things out.

In this respect, I always feel that a good trio demands your respect, as it takes real talent to create a big sound with only 3 band members.

So, as a salute to these acts, we present, the best three piece bands ever.

In no particular order…

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Well, they had to be here really, didn’t they? Hendrix’s playing is a masterclass in how to create bigger orchestrations out of a single instrument. When not wringing timeless riffs and solos from his Stratocaster, Jimi was creating intricate accompaniment parts, full of broken chords and ornamentations that go almost unnoticed, but take the place of two other musicians…

Of course Mitch Mitchell played a huge part in creating The Experience’s huge sound, with truly incendiary playing. Meanwhile, Noel Redding provided a foundation on which this could be built.


When you hear Nirvana either live or on their albums, it’s hard to believe there was only three of them.

However, with Kurt’s supercharged guitar tone (check the Fender Mustang and Jaguar tributes to see how supercharged…), backed by Krist Novoselic’s powerful bass and Dave Grohl’s thunderous drumming, Nirvana could it make it seem like the world was collapsing… in a good way ;-).


Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce. I’ll say that again: Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce. If a trio had any member of this group in it, it would stand a good chance of being in a best three piece bands list.

To have all three? Jeez…


To perform as a three piece, each member has to compensate for the lack of band members. In Rush, we have a band that are more than equipped to do this.

Drummer Neil Peart, guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee are each virtuosos in their own field. Together, they have covered a dizzyingly broad musical spectrum over their 45 year career.

Beastie Boys

Though the NY Hip-hop act were better known as MCs, they started out as a band, and returned to their instruments at numerous points in their career.

Arguably their most famous hit, ‘Sabotage’ featured The Beasties as a band, as did much of the album ‘Ill Communication’, on which it appeared.

Capable of astonishing variety, incredible vision and all backed up with their trademark energy (unbelievable live), The Beasties deserve a place in the best three piece bands ever list.

There are plenty who narrowly missed out on this list- who would you like to see in it?

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