Top 10 Best Rock Trios

These ten bands only use drums, bass and guitar, but compose remarkable music standing the test of time. Who are they? Read on to find out.

Ultimate Guitar
The purest rock acts only need three instruments to make a big sound. That's why we asked UG readers to nominate and vote for their favorite rock trios of all time this week.

These ten bands only use drums, bass and guitar, but with those simple ingredients have composed some remarkable music which stands the test of time.

So which three-piece rock acts did UG readers vote as the best ever? Read on to find out.

10. Emerson, Lake & Palmer

These prog superstars drew from their favorite classical and jazz music to produce their own vision of rock music. Over their career, the compositions became more accessible which brought them to a wider audience, but the musicianship was always on another level.

9. Primus

One of the quirkiest rock acts in history, Primus are best-known for writing the South Park theme tune but have been wowing rock audiences with their genuinely original brand of American rock since 1984. Check out this live set where they even cover Pink Floyd during the two-hour set.

8. Cream

Eric Clapton ranks as one of the best guitarists of all time, and his Cream cohorts in Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were among the best in their field back in the 1960s too. Many see them as the first real supergroup, and they went on to sell millions which was particularly impressive in their era.

7. The Police

The Police helped bring the New Wave movement to the mainstream, and became global stars thanks to songs like stalker-anthem "Every Breath You Take." They've got Grammy Awards falling off the mantlepiece, and were the world's highest earning band in 2008. Not bad for three people.

6. The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Is it worth describing how godlike this band was? Simply the greatest psychedelic rock band ever, with Hendrix's iconic guitar stylings backed by bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. Groovy.

5. Muse

They started as a unsuspecting teenage band in the deep English countryside, but became one of the most bombastic live acts ever. Everything from hard rock to opera and classical pour into their music, but if one thing is for sure, this rock trio know how to make a huge racket.

4. Nirvana

Nirvana might have missed out on a spot in the top 3, but Nirvana are easily the most famous rock trio of all time. It's no surprise; their breed of dynamic grunge shook the entire music industry and inspired majors to invest in quality underground music through the 1990s.

3. ZZ Top

Since 1969, ZZ Top have been pushing the boundaries of every genre they've put the touch of their long white beards to, whether it's blues rock, punk rock or synth-heavy dance.

2. Motorhead

Lemmy is the only long-standing member of Motorhead, but his big warty face is like an icon for the band so that's fine. Their punk energy helped bring underground British rock back to the fore in the mid-70s, kicking and screaming like Motorhead fans in a mosh pit.

1. Rush

Canada's best export is this renown rock trio from Toronto. Fueled by a diet of science fiction, philosophy and an eclectic music taste, Rush have produced some of the most widely-accepted progressive rock of all time. Apart from a relatively brief hiatus between 1997 and 2001, Rush have been going since 1968 and are still going strong after their long-overdue induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.

Congratulations Rush, you're the best rock trio of all time!

That's the end of our roundup of the world's best rock trios, thanks to votes by UG readers.

How would you tweak the results? Who would you personally rank in your top three? Let us know in the comments.

338 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    I could only imagine what the comment section would look like if The Prodigy took a place in this list.
    Glad that Green Day did not make the list.
    oh boo!!! boo!!! Quit downvoting the dude, yall were the ones that kept Green Day off the list
    am I the only one that read that post in the voice of Grounds Keeper Willie from The Simpsons???
    why does he have so many likes for agreeing with something I said that got a lot of dislikes for???
    He wasn't agreeing with you, he was saying that you were the only one who read that in Groundskeeper Willie's voice. Sounds more like a hillbilly redneck to me but there you go.
    But Green Day is terrible...
    I don't think they're TERRIBLE, but give me a break if you can't think of just 10 rock trios that are better than they are.
    Hate, Terrible, Biggest Mother****ing Piece of shit to ever walk this earth, all very strong words that generally do not describe music that is just generic and bland at best.
    "and they went on to sell millions which was particularly impressive in their era." Isn't that pretty impressive in any era?
    The Funkshake
    Gotta love that performance by Cream man, OK list but I'm amazed The Jimi Hendrix Experience is only 6
    unfortunately they are pretty underground, the same thing that Venom suffered from, if it isn't sold in a best buy or target it doesn't have much chance of making one of these lists.
    where the **** is TCV?
    TCV: - is a supergroup - either has Dave Grohl (as Nirvana)
    The Funkshake
    Cream were a supergroup, what's your point?
    One Dave Grohl per list.
    That's not a thing; if he's in more than one deserving band, he can be in as many times as necessary.
    Why do I get the feeling one of the next top 10s will be "Dave Grohl's top 10 projects" now we know the 1 Grohl per list rule doesn't count.
    Personally, out of those: 1)Jimi 2)Rush 3)Cream 4)ZZ Top 5)Nirvana 6)Motorhead 7)The Police 8)Muse 9)E,L & P 10)Primus Again, just my opinion.
    Just in my opinion, and people probably won't agree because they didn't have as big of following as these bands, but The Fall of Troy. Extremely talented for their age. Too bad they split up.
    - Says the bands use only drums, bass and guitar - First group listed is drums, bass, and keyboards :-O
    Woah. The Jimi Hendrix Experience at number 6 and Cream at number 8? Other than the fact that they should have been in at least the top 5, I liked the fact that ZZ Top, Motorhead and Rush were included.
    You can pretty much guarantee something Rush and something Motorhead will be on every fan UG list. Best folk artist? Motorhead! Best 60s group? Rush!
    "Best 60s group? Rush!" That may make UG's collective heads explode considering they'd be up against Led Zeppelin. It'd probably be a tie.
    Alright list I guess, some good bands. The Police, Muse and ELP all seem like strange choices to me, but I guess it adds some variety. Primus and Cream should have been higher, maybe I should have voted. Bah! One vote never made a difference.
    I don't know about you, but I regard ELP as the worst rock band ever... Or better to say it's not rock music... But that's just me...
    I too think they're extremely overrated, and I'm a huge prog fan. Lots of talent, but couldn't write a listenable song to save their lives.
    Greg Lake should've stayed with King Crimson.
    Actually he shouldn't have, because John Wetton is like 20x better.
    The only Wetton KC album I liked more than In the Court of the Crimson King was Larks' Tongues. But to each their own.. I love all eras of KC. And they could've had two bassists! Or three once Levin joined!
    I can definitely agree with that lol. I like ELP a little because they're very talented but like you said, pretty subpar songwriters.