Take a tour of Tool drummer Danny Carey’s Sonor kit

Tool drum tech Joe Slaby
(Image credit: Joe Slaby/Instagram)

As well as his incredible playing, Danny Carey has an equal knack for using interesting and varied gear. A long-time Sonor and Paiste artist, Danny’s kits are always huge, but he has gone through some changes over the years, incorporating Remo RotoToms into his setup, as well as showing his love for cast bronze drums via his custom Paiste Bronze Custom Cast kit, plus his more recent snare drum collaboration VK Drums.

However, for Tool’s most recent tours, Danny has been back to playing wood Sonor shells, complete with a full house of Paiste cymbals, interspersed with his innovative and distinctive Mandala electronic drum pads and more.

Danny’s drum tech, Joe Slaby has been documenting Danny’s rig on Instagram over multiple videos, giving us a detailed insight into the setup. Let’s get started!

Sonor SQ2 drums

“Danny’s a long-time Sonor endorser, and he’s playing on this kit, some Sonor SQ2 shells. Sonor was nice enough to indulge Danny and put these cool vintage teardrop lugs [on them]. The shell thicknesses are unique for Danny. His jam is that he likes the smallest drum to have the thickest shell, and then the shells get thinner.

"He's got a 14” RotoTom in there, and the snares on this leg are Sonor Bronze snares. He’s got this one which is 10-lugs, and another one which is 12-lugs. We also have a 10 lug wood snare which is made of beech. It’s 14”x8”, and [his bronze snares] are also 14”x8”.

"The paint job on these drums was done by the artist Alex Grey who works with Tool a lot. Most of these drums are wrapped, some of the drums were custom painted by Alex, including Danny’s portrait on the gong drum."

Following the first part of the kit tour, Danny Carey himself chimed-in to talk about why his drum shells become progressively thinner as the drums increase in size, his bass drum sizes and pedal settings.

“I have them graduated thicker, then getting thicker as the shells get smaller. I’ve found that the thinner shells seem to reverberate low end better, so the thinner shells on the floor toms and kick drums make the resonating frequency lower.

"When I started using smaller toms, I found that the thinner shells could get overpowered. They didn’t have the cut that I needed to get over Adam and Justin’s amplifiers. So by making the shell thicker, it seems like it has a more piercing fundamental, and it cuts through the high frequencies of their guitars better."

Cymbals: Paiste Signature, 2002, Twenty and Dark Energy Series

“Danny endorses Paiste cymbals, beautiful instruments crafted in Switzerland. I just want to add that [the configuration] changes all the time.

“We’ll start with his custom ride cymbal which we call the “Monad”. It’s a 22” Paiste Dry Heavy Ride with a nice clean bell sound, and it’s purple! For crashes [left-to-right] there’s an 18” Signature Full Crash, 18" Signature Power Crash and a 20” Power Crash.

“Stage-left side he’s got a China 24 2002, and over [to the right of the kit] is a 22” Signature Thin China. Throughout the kit he’s got a lot of bells and cup chimes.

“Right here [above the 8” rack tom] he’s got a 10” Twenty Series Splash, then on top he’s got an 8” Dark Energy Splash. This [stack] is a China noise pair, a trashy stack. It’s an 18” on the bottom and an 11” on top.

“The hi-hats [positioned in the centre of the kit] he’s been using recently are the Paiste Stewart Copeland 12” Signature pair, they’re really crisp. 

"[Behind the kit] we have a really lovely Paiste 38” symphonic Gong, also on the stage but not set-up yet is a massive 60” Earth Gong that Danny uses as part of his solo. 

"Mixed in with all the Paiste cymbals are some little accent cymbals like the bell, there’s an Enochian chime. That was made by Van Kleef who is a drum maker. So mixed in with everything else are little bits of cool sounds.”

Electronics: Mandala Pads, Korg Wavedrum, Roland HandSonic, Marimba Lumina Gold and more

“The heart of the electronics are these great pads from Mandala. These are made by Danny’s friend Vince DeFranco who is a designer. Danny triggers sounds from these, either one sound or you can trigger different sounds in different zones, or you can tweak a sound from the centre to the edge

"Those run through a Universal Audio Apollo X6 audio interface, and they run off a computer triggering sounds from Native Instruments Battery. He’s also triggering sounds from two FAT Pedals from Drum Tech.

“Tool fans will recognise the original Korg Wavedrum from the early 90s. It has a lot of sounds on it that you’ll recognise from Tool’s catalogue, and he also plays sometimes with the Roland HandSonic and Octapad.

“Mounted above the gong is a beautiful Marimba Lumina Gold [designed by Don Buchla] that Danny uses as a controller to play some sounds through an Access Virus Indigo synth.

“Back here we have Danny’s modular synth, which we call the Tool Box, was built by Peter Grenader. All  those components are running through a Neve mixer in a rack which Danny controls, it’s a 16-channel summing mixer.”

Meanwhile, Tool announced a 2024 European tour last week, beginning in May and continuing throughout June. For a full list of dates, and to get your tickets, click here.

Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.