Danny Carey isn’t just the drummer for Tool – he’s a musical genius in his own right. And we’re going to show you why.
From his deep understanding of rhythm and his unique approach to composition, to his proficiency with challenging time signatures and independence, he’s developed a recognizable style that inspires drummers around the world.
If you’re familiar with Danny Carey, you probably know him for his polyrhythms, his mathematical approach to music, or at the very least, his awesome kit. But you don’t need convincing.
If you haven’t yet figured out why the Tool drummer has so much hype, here are 5 reasons why Danny Carey is a drumming genius:
Listen to the drum parts on “Stinkfist”, “The Pot”, and “Vicarious.” Danny’s grooves are undeniably cool, and Tool fans – even non-drummers – can instantly recognize many of them.
One of Tool’s biggest songs, “Schism”, has an intro groove broken into alternating bars of 5/8 and 7/8 (you could think of it as a longer phrase of 12/8).
He turns his snare wires off here.
What about the opening hi-hat groove in “Sober”? It may not be overly complicated, but it’s a part Tool fans can instantly recognize.
And then you have his tom-based grooves on tracks like “Hush”, “Intolerance” and “Ticks & Leeches”, and the end of “Opiate”.
Whether it’s his technicality, his note placement or the way he builds the parts for the music, Danny Carey’s an incredible writer.
If you’re new to Tool, check out the cool drumming on these tracks:
Don’t miss “The Grudge” (with 5/8 sections):
Or “Forty Six & 2” (7/8 during the instrumental):
Or “Pneuma” (12/8 to 11/8 to 10/8).
The original working title for the song “Lateralus” was “987” because in the intro and choruses, the time signature changes from 9/8 to 8/8 (aka 4/4) then 7/8.
Danny isn’t the only Tool member who’s into math. Many parts of the track are based around the Fibonacci sequence: where each number in the sequence is the sum of the two numbers before it. The number of syllables in each lyrical phrase represent Fibonacci numbers, and 987 is also in the sequence.
Here’s the beginning of the first chorus in Lateralus:
Danny Carey’s fills are chock full of hand-foot combos, mixed subdivisions and groupings, and flawless bass drum skills (he used to practice rudiments in his feet).
Listen to the intro of “Sober”, where you’ll hear meticulously executed subdivisions from 16th notes to 32nd notes.
The fills in “Forty Six & 2” and “Lateralus” are also incredible:
And in the intro of “The Pot”, Danny creates rhythmic tension and movement with five note groupings and hertas on the snare drum.
For a band that writes songs based around the Fibonacci sequence, you can bet the drummer dives deep into polyrhythms, polymeters, and other mathematical goodies.
We hear multiple time signatures/meters happening at the same time, giving us a cool over the bar line feel.
In “Lateralus”, the band plays in 6/8 (or a 12/8 feel) while Danny plays in 5/8. The bridge of “Eulogy” features what sounds like a standard 4/4 groove, but groupings of 3 on the hi-hats take three full bars to resolve.
Check out the verse from “Invincible” – it has a 7/16 groove with a pattern that goes over the bar line, resulting in a 7 over 3 polyrhythm.
(The tom in this sheet music represents the Wavedrum electronic sample)
And then there’s “Pneuma”, where you hear Danny play three note groupings of 16ths over a 4/4 bass rhythm.
(The toms in this sheet music represent tabla samples)
As if that wasn’t enough, in “Rosetta Stoned”, he plays in 3/4 while implying 4/4 on the right hand and 5/16 with the bass drum.
Even if you didn’t pay attention in math class, it still sounds really cool.
Math, geometry, metaphysics: even his kit reflects his interests, with symmetrical cymbal placements and geometric designs on his electronic pads.
Many of his musical choices aren’t standard for a rock or metal kit. He uses Mandala electronic pads for samples, a Wavedrum, and other electronics (Bill Bruford from Yes is an influence).
A tabla player as well, Danny recorded many of his own percussive parts on tracks like “Disposition”, although he triggers these parts live.
You can hear shakers, congas, tabla, and other percussion on tracks like “10,000 Days (Wings Pt. 2)”, “Pushit”, “Forty Six & 2”, “Eulogy”, “Intention” and “Fear Inoculum”.
But we can’t credit Danny with developing his sound all on his own. His style is unique because of his broad range of influences, taking concepts from rock drummers like Neil Peart and John Bonham but also jazz and fusion drummers like Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Steve Gadd and Lenny White.
Listen to “Sweat” by Tool or “BHP” by his other band Volto! to hear his fusion influences. You can even hear a delicate snare/ride approach on Tool tracks like “The Grudge” that hints at genre greats like Williams, White, and Cobham.
He isn’t just a drummer – he’s an incredible musician who has carved out his own style of playing and composing. He writes memorable and interesting drum parts that have inspired drummers for over 30 years.
You could take our word for it – and we can call him “amazing” and “genius” all we want – but you really have to listen yourself to understand why so many consider Danny Carey a ‘god-tier’ drummer.
For other video breakdowns on why certain drummers are so well loved, check these out:
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