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Danny Carey’s Drum Kit, Snare, Cymbals, and Gear Breakdown

It’s commonly agreed that Danny Carey is one of the best rock drummers to play the instrument. He’s been Tool’s drummer since the band’s inception in the late 80s, and his unique drum parts created to fit the band’s eccentric music have pushed him to be a favorite of many.

One of the most unique things about Danny Carey is his drum kit setup. It’s modeled after a standard setup, but it has several whacky components that are hard to distinguish when seeing them. 

We’ve done a bit of research to find out everything there is to know, so here’s a complete gear breakdown of Danny Carey’s entire kit.

Danny Carey’s Brands

Before getting into the specifics, here are all the brands that Danny Carey uses. It’s good to know what these are, as it makes it a bit easier to recognize his gear when looking at it. 

He’s been using these brands for most of his career, showing that he has strong relationships with all the artist relations people from each brand. 

Sonor Drums

Sonor is a German drum company that is very well-known for creating high-end drum sets. While they have a few affordable kits for beginners and intermediate players, it’s the high-end gear that makes the brand stand out. 

Danny Carey is one of the biggest names on the Sonor artist roster, so he’s always using the best Sonor gear wherever he plays. 

Apart from the drums, he also uses a lot of Sonor hardware. The brand has a few in-house ranges of hardware that are heavy-duty and packed with great features.

Paiste Cymbals

Paiste is a Swiss cymbal company, and like Sonor, Danny Carey is one of the biggest names on the Paiste artist roster. So, he’s always had a lot of pull with what the brand creates. 

Paiste has been the cymbal brand of choice for countless rock and metal drummers throughout the years, particularly in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and that’s when Danny Carey joined the brand. 

He has a signature ride cymbal with the brand called the Monad Dry Heavy Ride, and he’s been using it for years at this point.

He’s also used a few unique cymbal creations from a brand called Hammerax, but he mostly plays Paiste cymbals.

Vic Firth Drumsticks

Danny Carey wasn’t always a loyal Vic Firth player. He used to play drumsticks from a brand called Trueline, and he had a signature stick model with the company. However, it went under, and he later joined the Vic Firth family. 

He has a signature stick with Vic Firth, and he’s been playing with it for decades. 

Vic Firth is arguably the biggest drumstick brand in the world, and their spotlight YouTube videos always give amazing insight into the careers of drummers like Danny Carey.

Evans Drumheads

Evans is one of the three big drumhead brands in the world, sitting next to Remo and Aquarian. Danny Carey uses Evans heads for all his standard drum kit shells, but he often plays with a few percussive drums that will have their own types of heads.

Roland Electronics

A lot of Tool songs heavily rely on electronics in the drum parts, so Danny Carey has a range of Roland instruments placed around his kit. Most of these are drum pads that he can assign sounds to. 

The biggest reason for using Roland electronic pads is so that he can play the same sounds that were used on Tool’s studio albums. Most gigging drummers do this nowadays. 

The several large pads that Danny Carey uses aren’t from Roland, though. We’ll get to those shortly!

Korg Electronics

Danny Carey also uses some Korg percussion pads in his setup. They’re a lot older than the Roland ones, but he used Korg pads back in the late 90s and early 2000s, and he’s mentioned how he still uses them to play the same sounds that were used back then.

Those sounds have become iconic to the songs, so it would make the music sound different if he used percussion pads with better technology.

Most drummers want the most realistic electronic sounds possible, but in this case, Danny Carey prefers the more analog sounds.


Syensthesia is a brand that creates electronic pads called Mandala Pads. Danny Carey uses several of these in his drum kit setup, and he utilizes them to play a wide range of percussion sounds. 

He’s stated how much he loves them due to being able to play various sounds depending on where he strikes them with his sticks. 

They also have unique artwork printed on them that fully fits the artistic expression of his work with Tool. The band is deep into that kind of thing, making these pads aesthetically perfect.

Gear Specifics

Now that we have the backgrounds of all of Danny Carey’s brands out the way, we can move on to the exact specifics of his setup. 

You’ll find that his setup changes slightly depending on where and what he’s playing, but over all the years that he’s been drumming for Tool, this is mostly what he’s been rocking. 

Drum Set

Danny typically plays a Sonor SQ2 drum kit when he performs. It’s Sonor’s top-of-the-range custom kit, so Danny Carey has gotten very specific drum shells to be made for his rig.

It always looks like he’s playing on a large drum setup, but most of what you see is percussion instruments and pads. His actual drum shells are quite simple.

Here’s what he plays:

  • 22” x 19” bass drum
  • 24” x 20” bass drum
  • 8” x 8” rack tom
  • 10” x 10” rack tom
  • 12” x 12” rack tom
  • 16” x 14” floor tom
  • 18” x 16” floor tom 

A bit of an interesting story is that Danny had a metal kit created for him at one stage. It was made from melted-down bronze from a Paiste cymbal line. He only used the kit for one tour in 2002, but it was a head-turner at the time. 

Snare Drum

Danny Carey has a signature snare drum with Sonor. The size is 14” x 8”, and it has a 1mm thick bronze shell. He’s been using this snare drum in his setup for most of the last decade, as it gives him all the tones he needs for Tool songs. 

Bronze snare drums are some of the most versatile snares available, and this large one certainly packs a punch. 


Danny Carey uses a mixture of Paiste’s Signature and 2002 Series cymbals. There are a few other cymbals from different lines that pop up now and again, but he mostly sticks with those. 

Apart from his signature ride cymbal, you’ll often see him changing his cymbals around to add fresh takes. However, here is a list of cymbals that he seems to regularly use: 

  • 18” Paiste 2002 China 
  • 11” Paiste Noise Works Dark Buzz China 
  • 20” Paiste Signature Heavy China 
  • 22” Paiste 2002 Novo China 
  • 20” Paiste Signature Power Crash
  • 18” Paiste Signature Power Crash
  • 14” Paiste Formula 602 Sound Edge Hi-Hats
  • 6” Paiste 2002 Cup Chime
  • 6.5” Paiste 2002 Cup Chime
  • 5.5” Paiste 2002 Cup Chime
  • 8” Paiste Signature Dark energy Splash Mark I
  • 8” Paiste Signature Splash 
  • 10” Paiste Signature Dark Energy Splash Mark I 


Vic Firth has a pair of sticks called the Danny Carey Signature Series, and he’s been using the wood-tipped version of these for years. 

The most unique thing about these sticks is that they have a cut-in design where you hold your hands. It looks as though they’ve been chipped, but they’re designed like that to add comfort

It works perfectly for Danny Carey, and many other drummers have said how great these sticks feel in their hands. However, that cut-in design isn’t something that everyone will love. You have to try it out to see if you’re for it or not. 

Electronic Pads

There are a few different electronic pads that Danny Carey uses. They all provide the digital sounds that he needs to play various songs. 

The first one to mention is the Roland SPD-30 Octapad. This is Roland’s looping pad that has hundreds of sounds on it that you can alter. Interestingly, Danny Carey chooses not to use the SPD-SX, which is what most other professional drummers use. 

He also uses Roland’s Handsonic HPD-20 pad. It’s an electronic pad that’s meant to be played with your hands, and he uses it to play a variety of world percussion sounds when he’s not using his drumsticks. 

The large drum pads that you see surrounding his kit are the Mandala Drum Pads. These are one of his favorite pieces of gear, and he uses them in almost every tool song. They produce sounds ranging from bongos to timpani.

Why is Danny Carey’s Drum Kit So Special?

People regularly enquire about Danny Carey’s setup due to it being so integral to the drum parts of Tool. While he’s an amazing drummer that would make any drum kit work, he needs all his bells and whistles to make the drum parts of Tool work in live settings. 

When listening to Tool albums, people always wonder what Danny is playing to make those sounds, and it’s incredible to see him doing it live. So, his kit is special because it’s iconic to him and his playing style. 

Anyone else could sit down at his kit and play, but it most likely won’t sound as good as when Danny Carey plays it.

Danny Carey Performances

Here are a few Tool songs to listen to and watch to experience Danny Carey using his setup to its full extent. 

Pneuma by Tool Live

This is one of the few high-quality videos that are freely available of Danny Carey performing live. This drum cam footage allows you to see everything he does, and you can see just how much he utilizes all his electronic percussion right from the start. 

It’s really impressive how many tones he gets from a single Mandala Drum Pad, so just imagine how much he plays with all seven of them.          

Danny Carey | "Pneuma" by Tool (LIVE IN CONCERT)

The Pot by Tool

The Pot is one of the songs well-known for getting people into Tool. We certainly wouldn’t call them an easy-listening band, so many people struggle to get into their music. 

However, this tune is slightly more straightforward than their others, and the drumming is incredible. It’s a great introduction to the world of Tool and Danny Carey. 

TOOL - The Pot (Audio)

Lateralus by Tool

Lateralus is one of Tool’s most popular tracks. It demonstrates everything the band is known for in a single song, including complex time signature changes, abstract inspirations, and epic Danny Carey drumming. 

TOOL - Lateralus (Audio)

Final Thoughts on Danny Carey’s Drum Kit

To understand the sounds Danny Carey uses for Tool songs, you need to look at all the electronic percussion that he incorporates into his drum kit setup. He’s a fantastic example of how a rock drummer can use electronic soundsto add to the music. 

It helps that he uses one of Sonor’s best drum kits and all of Paiste’s best cymbals. He always has an incredible drum kit sound, and hopefully, we’ve helped you understand how and why!