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Jason Panella

Three guitars?

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I'm working on an article about my weird fascination with three-guitar bands. That is, bands that use three guitars (not including bass guitar). I'm trying to come up with a list of bands that use three guitars regularly, especially bands that actually do something fairly creative with it.

Digging around the internet, I've found tons of posts on guitar-focused forums that show that 1) lost of people think three guitars is a bad idea (understandable, considering that.....), 2) the only three-guitar bands people can think of are Eagles, Lynryd Skynyrd, or other classic rock bands that basically just double-up the rhythm parts (or do dueling lead guitars! Whoa!). 3) Almost all of these threads end with someone typing "IRON MAIDEN" in all caps, as the end-all-be-all in three guitar attack.

There are some bands like Pearl Jam, Wilco, Switchfoot and the like that have three guitars and are pretty cool, but I'm thinking more along the lines of Radiohead, Bedhead, The New Year, Mogwai, Drive-By Truckers (who, while often fairly conventional in their three-guitar fury, often do some cool things with it), and so on. Specifically, bands that break the "rhythm/lead" split, or at least play with the formula in interesting ways.

Any other ideas?

EDIT: My list so far:

Bedhead

The New Year

Radiohead

Drive-by Truckers

Slowdive

Maybe every other post-rock band (Explosions in the Sky, etc. etc.)

Later-era Sonic Youth

Edited by Jason Panella

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opus   

Actually, most of the post-rock groups I can think of are quartets with two guitars. The primary exception being, of course, Mogwai.

To me, the inclusion of 3+ guitars is all about atmosphere and texture, i.e., the third guitar adds just that many more layers of sound to the mix. Which is perfect for shoegazer(-esque) bands like Slowdive, A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Soundpool, and Lightfoils.

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Greg P   

Radiohead has really opened up the possibility of what three guitars can do in rock, if you want to dare tag what they do as rawk.. When all three of them are playing guitar, the roles are very clearly defined and carefully arranged and you never hear the conventional rhythm guitar bar-chording. Ed frequently leans on the E-bow and volume pedal to produce ambient swells, where Thom often digs his heals into the primary riff, with Jonny winding around both of them with intricate arpeggios and skwawks. It's a pretty potent formula.

When Pat Smear plays with them, aren't the Foo's three guitars? I dont find what they do interesting in the slightest.

The Wlico trio is also really compelling-- especially live on tunes like "Impossible Germany". Like Radiohead, when they do that "thing", there are very careful arrangements and roles, and not a lot of the dopey, doubled-up power-chording. . Tweedy, as a lead singer, is every bit as adept as Yorke too (able to solo and riff when the situation calls) Nels has got the best imaginable scenario to solo over.

It's not an easy format to write music for. It requires some creative writing, restraint with arranging and flexibility with roles. Maybe that's why so few bands use it. With three electrics it's very easy to start sounding like Molly Hatchet (they had three, right?) or Foghat (who I think only had two, but just sucked so bad I coundnt resist not using them as an example of ultimate power chord lameness)

MMJ have three when Jim James plays, i think. But man, my opinion of them has diminished greatly with every album since Z.

Edited by Greg P

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When Pat Smear plays with them, aren't the Foo's three guitars? I dont find what they do interesting in the slightest.

Exactly. Smear just really just adds on another layer of power chords. ZZZZZ.

Your description of what Radiohead does is what I love about the three-guitar approach, Greg. I also always look to Bedhead and the New Year as two bands (the same band, really) that follow a similar format. Sometimes there's some chord strummin' going on, but usually all three guitars are winding arpeggios around each other's lines, or forming two intricate guitar parts around e-Bow squall.

Edited by Jason Panella

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Funny, I was just watching a video of the current Daniel Amos line-up yesterday and noticing that they had three guitarists (Terry Taylor, Greg Flesch and Jerry Chamberlain), in addition to their bass guitarist (whose name slips me; in the past, and on their albums, it was Tim Chandler, but they've got someone else filling in for him on their current gigs).

Incidentally, about 35 years ago, I believe Daniel Amos had two *drummers*. How often does *that* happen?

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How many guitars were going on those Traveling Wilburys records?

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Incidentally, about 35 years ago, I believe Daniel Amos had two *drummers*. How often does *that* happen?

More often than you think!

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Greg P   

Incidentally, about 35 years ago, I believe Daniel Amos had two *drummers*. How often does *that* happen?

More often than you think!

Yep! See: 2011-2012 Radiohead w/Clive Deamer! But for historical reference there's always the classic Allman Bros lineup

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Incidentally, about 35 years ago, I believe Daniel Amos had two *drummers*. How often does *that* happen?

More often than you think!

Yep! See: 2011-2012 Radiohead w/Clive Deamer! But for historical reference there's always the classic Allman Bros lineup

The Newsboys used to make a big event over dual/dueling drummers during their live shows back in the early 00s.

And White Rabbits occasionally use three drummers.

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Joel   

I think mewithoutYou occasionally ends up with three guitars -- acoustic rhythm, "atmospheric" reverby stuff/riffs, and occasional electric chords/riffs? Even I just made that up, it would be a pretty legit 3-guitar setup I think.

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This is probably not the type of music you're looking for, but a lot of "world music" (for lack of a better term) acts have multiple guitarists. The Gipsy Kings have seven(!), but all on acoustic. The late Remmy Ongala from Tanzania played guitar, but he also had three other electric guitarists in his Orchestre Super Matimila. Lots of African soukous bands had similar guitar-heavy lineups.

The Newsboys used to make a big event over dual/dueling drummers during their live shows back in the early 00s.

Genesis used to do this too. They had a tour drummer (Chester Thompson) who would play drums so that Phil Collins could focus on singing. But usually during the show Phil would sit behind his own set of drums and have a "duel" with Chester. Good times.

Edited by morgan1098

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opus   

Let's not forget about Rothko with their three bassists.

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mrmando   

Actually, this is the band that introduced the three-guitar lineup to popular music:

hotclubfrance2.jpg

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These pictures are great. Thanks Mando and Tyler.

This reminds me: Los Lobos has three guitarists (especially now, since Louie Perez stepped away from drums and put his Les Paul back on). Watching the Kiko Live DVD, I can see how the band weaves between traditional rhythm/lead roles and some really cool textural stuff. Love these guys.

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