Video: How to Make Your Kit Sound Like Danny Carey's of Tool

Photo by Amy Sussman / Getty Images

Danny Carey of the progressive metal band Tool is one of the most renowned and respected drummers of the modern age.

His unique approach to phrasing and composition incorporates African and Indian influences alongside his fusion and rock roots, and his inventive drum setup blends state–of–the–art electronics with a unique selection of cymbals and drums.

Sonor SQ2 with Beech Shells

Today, we’re focusing solely on the acoustic elements — head, cymbal, and drum — so that you can sound like Danny Carey without breaking the bank.

Danny’s playing encompasses an extremely wide dynamic range, and often hits very hard. His forceful sound is made possible by a combination heavy duty heads and thick shells unique to his Sonor SQ2 kit (though he occasionally uses a Bronze–shelled set made by Jeff Ocheltree).

If you can, aim for a high–density wood kit to achieve this tone. Beech is best, but oak or birch will get you most of the way there.


Four toms ranging in size from 8”–16” are ideal, and the deeper the drums the better.

The tom parts in most Tool songs serve as essential groove elements rather than just punctuation in fills, so Danny usually tunes them to the key of the song (usually D minor) when recording. This can be difficult if your sizes or shell composition are different, so just aim for tuning the drums to the notes of whatever minor triad comes naturally.

It also helps to tune the top heads roughly a third higher than the resonant heads to reduce overtones and upward pitch bends inherent in tighter resonant head tuning.

Bass Drum

Though Danny’s kit normally incorporates 22x18 and 24x18” kicks, a single kick drum and double pedal will get you close enough. A deeper drum is better and should be 22–24” in size. Use a clear, pre–muffled batter head — such as an Evans EQ3 or Remo Powerstroke 3 — and tune it medium–low for maximum punch.

Danny usually uses a mesh head in place of a resonant head, but if you don’t have one of these handy, simply cut away most of an old batter head for the same effect. Finally, place a small pillow up against the batter head to add even more punch to the sound.


Lastly, it’s important to use a metal–shelled snare drum — ideally bronze — and get as close to 8” deep as you can. 6” to 7” deep drums will do the job as well, but you may have to tune a little lower.

Die cast hoops are also a must to help achieve a gunshot–like attack, and use a reinforced single–ply coated batter, like the Remo Controlled Sound or Evans Power Center Reverse Dot over a clear snare–side head.

Tune the batter to a medium–high pitch, and keep the resonant head medium to medium–low. Similar to the tom tuning, we want the emphasis of the sound to be on the attack, with a subtle and warm sustain devoid of high overtones.


Cymbal–wise, it’s all about that Paiste shimmer, but anything in the B8 to B12 Bronze alloy range will work well. The centerpiece of the setup is a large, dry ride that’s either 21” or 22” in diameter. Danny’s own signature model from Paiste, the Monad Dry Heavy Ride, is a massive 22” monster with a purple Colorsound coating designed to dry up excess overtones.

In terms of crashes, front and center should be two 18” models in the medium–heavy to heavy weight range, while off to the right a larger 19–20” heavy crash should be used. Ideally, two large, heavy china cymbals should round things out, placed on opposite sides of the kit to enable left– or right–hand accents.

For hi–hats, a rippled–edge set is best for increased crispness. 13” is ideal, but larger sizes will work as well. Finally, lay your hands on any splashes or bells you’ve got, as Danny uses a variety of these small effects cymbals for atmospheric accents during more spacious sections of music.

Specs of kit used in video:

  • 1980s Sonor Phonic Plus kit (refinished):
  • 8x8”, 10x10”, 12x12”, 16x18” toms
  • 22x18” bass drum
  • 1990s Legend Phosphor Bronze Snare w/ Puresound Custom 20–strand snare wires
  • Axis AL2 Longboard Double Pedal
  • Paiste Cymbals:
  • Signature 21” Dry Heavy Ride, 18” Full Crash, 18” Power Crash, 19” Power Crash
  • 2002 22” China, 15” Sound Edge Hi-Hats, 8” Accent Cymbal
  • Visions 20” Novo China
  • Dimensions 10” Thin Splash

Lead photo by Rynne Stump via

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