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Red Hot Chili Peppers Drummer Chad Smith: Everything You Need To Know

Drumeo Team  /  UPDATED Aug 4, 2023

When it comes to iconic drummers in the world of rock music, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers stands tall. With his powerful and dynamic style, he has captivated audiences around the globe.

Let’s delve into everything Chad Smith. From his influences and drumming journey to his collaborations with other artists (and none other than the Will Ferrell), we’ll cover it all.


Who is Chad Smith?

  • Chad Smith is the drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which he joined in 1988.
  • He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the band in 2012.
  • Chad Smith also plays drums in hard rock supergroup Chickenfoot and Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats (best name ever).
  • He’s recorded with Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple), Kid Rock, Ozzy Osbourne, Joe Satriani, The Dixie Chicks, Johnny Cash, John Fogerty and The Avett Brothers.
  • While he’s had an incredible career as a drummer, Chad Smith is technically self-taught.
  • Did you know Chad Smith recorded a children’s album? Now you do.

Chad Smith started playing drums in the fifth grade

Born on October 25, 1961 in St. Paul, Minnesota, Chad Smith developed a passion for music and was drawn to the drums. It was in his fifth-grade band class that he discovered his love for the instrument. 

In an interview with SBO Magazine, Smith said he had a teacher who gave him a Haskell W. Harr Drum Method book.” [My teacher] said it was really important to learn the 26 rudiments. This is the alphabet to be able to speak the language of the drums.

I was like, ‘Wow. You’ve gotta speak the language of the drums.’

He’s like, ‘It’s rhythm, but you have to know that there are things that are specific to drummers. Not just quarter notes, half notes and eighth notes, but flams and five stroke rolls, and rudiment cues.'”

Smith’s commitment to his craft paid off as he progressed through his teen years. After high school, he decided to pursue music and attended the prestigious Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. There he immersed himself in a vibrant music community, learning from renowned instructors and collaborating with fellow aspiring musicians.

This experience not only expanded his musical knowledge but also brought him connections and opportunities. He dropped out of school pretty quickly after one of those connections pointed him to audition for a band.

The band in question? None other than the Red Hot Chili Peppers. 

Joining the Red Hot Chili Peppers 

The year was 1988, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers had been looking for a new drummer for a few months. Their previous sticksmith, Jack Irons left due to the passing of guitarist Hillel Slovak.

Dead Kennedys’ drummer D. H. Peligro and Fishbone’s Philip “Fish” Fisher were given a shot, as were others – but none of them stuck. Apparently 30 drummers tried out before the Red Hot Chili Peppers settled on Smith. He perfectly complemented their unique fusion of rock, funk, and punk with his energetic and hard-hitting style. 

But there was a catch.

“We told him, ‘Okay, shave your head and you’re in the band,” lead singer Anthony Kiedis said in an interview. “He said ‘No’, and we thought that was even more punk than being pushed around by a bunch of assholes like us.”

Smith quickly became an integral part of the Chili Peppers’ sound, contributing to their distinct rhythm and groove. Smith’s addition marked a turning point in the band’s career, propelling them to new heights of success.

Influences and playing style 

Chad Smith’s drumming style blends power, precision, and infectious energy. Drawing inspiration from various genres, including rock, funk, and jazz, he seamlessly incorporates diverse elements into his playing.

Alongside his early influences (like Bill Ward, John Bonham and Keith Moon), Smith cites drummers like Stewart Copeland of The Police and Ian Paice of Deep Purple as major inspirations in shaping his style: executing intricate patterns and creative fills while maintaining a solid foundation.

Collaborations and side projects 

While Smith’s work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers is undoubtedly his most prominent contribution to the music scene, he’s also engaged in a ton of collaborations and side projects.

Over the years, he has lent his talents to artists, even working with the iconic Johnny Cash. Smith’s drumming would end up on Cash’s 2003 Unearthed, which featured outtakes and alternate recordings from the various American Recordings albums. The album was released just two months after Cash’s death.

In an interview with the Music Hall of Fame & Museum (more on that later), Smith spoke about meeting Cash for the first time.

“He’s standing there in the vocal booth, glasses down to his nose. He’s got his guitar, and I kinda walk in, you know, and it was classic – he opens the door and I said ‘Hey I’m Chad, I’m the drummer for the session.’ He goes ‘Hey Chad nice to meet you, I’m Johnny Cash (Deep Johnny Cash voice),’ and that voice! I’m like ahhhh.”

Other artists Smith has worked with include Glenn Hughes, Jake Bugg, and The Dixie Chicks, showcasing his versatility as a drummer. These ventures have allowed him to explore different musical landscapes while leaving his mark on each project.

Recordings and studio work 

Chad Smith boasts an extensive catalogue of studio recordings. His drumming can be heard on numerous Red Hot Chili Peppers albums, including the critically acclaimed “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” “Californication,” and “By the Way.”

Smith’s creative contributions in the studio have played a significant role in shaping the band’s sound and evolution, and his contributions to albums by other artists have further established his reputation as a highly sought-after drummer.

You can hear his work on recordings with artists like Ozzy Osbourne, Dua Lipa, Halsey, Post Malone, Rammstein and Lana Del Rey – and even on soundtracks like The Lego Batman Movie!

Wikipedia has a solid list of albums and songs on which Chad Smith appears (we’d give it to you here, but it’s long).

Honors and achievements 

Chad Smith’s career has earned him top tier recognition and accolades. The Red Hot Chili Peppers was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, and Smith has received several Grammy Awards for his contributions to the band’s albums.

You can also see the impact he’s made on the drumming community in the number of times he’s appeared on various “Greatest Drummers” lists, like Rolling Stones’ 100 Greatest Drummers and Music Radar’s Greatest Drummers.

Smith’s ability to captivate audiences with his energetic performances – and his enduring influence on rock music – solidify his status as one of the greatest drummers of his generation.

Chad Smith’s beef with Will Ferrell

Chad Smith and comedic genius Will Ferrell happen to share an uncanny resemblance that has led to a hilarious and ongoing feud. The comparisons got so bad, Smith has been seen wearing a shirt saying “I’m not Will Ferrell” in numerous performances. 

The world witnessed the ultimate showdown on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in 2014 – because the only way to settle that doppelgänger dispute was with a Will Ferrell and Chad Smith Drum-Off.

Chad Smith, Shark Wrestler

We promise this isn’t clickbait. Following the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ tour of Australia on November 12, 1992, Smith was scuba diving near Wakaya Island when he encountered a shark. Smith attempted to keep still as the shark approached, then fended it off when it attempted to bite him.

Afterwards, the shark swam away but it did manage to remove a “small chunk of skin” from Smith’s left arm. Just when you thought Smith couldn’t get any cooler, he goes around fighting sharks. 

Ex-world record supporter

On December 6th, 1994, Smith gained extra notoriety for playing the world’s largest drum set, which was owned by his friend Dan McCourt. The set included 308 pieces, featured every type of drum (including a doorbell), and was worth over $50,000.

The kit breakdown reads like the lyrics to “The Twelve Days Of Christmas”:

  • 153 drums
  • 77 cymbals
  • 33 cowbells
  • 12 hi-hats
  • 8 tambourines
  • 6 wood blocks
  • 3 gongs
  • 3 bell trees
  • 2 maracas
  • 2 triangles
  • 2 rain sticks
  • 2 bells
  • 1 ratchet
  • 1 set of chimes
  • 1 xylophone
  • 1 afuche (cabasa)
  • 1 doorbell

Watch the man himself play the record-breaking drum kit while wearing his “trademark fire-spewing helmet” (and almost setting everything on fire):

The record has since been beaten (Dr. Mark Temperato now owns the 340-piece, world’s largest drum set), but it’s an impressive feat regardless. 

Chad Smith’s 2023 drum kit (the one he played at Drumeo, anyway) is much simpler:

chad smith drum kit drumeo

Red Hot Chili Peppers drum beats

Check out the video below for a full drum lesson with none other than Chad Smith. The 2022 Drumeo Awards Drummer Of The Year winner goes through over a dozen Red Hot Chili Peppers songs as well as talks about:

  • Recording Blood Sugar Sex Magik in 1991
  • Growing up outside Detroit, hearing Motown on the radio, and being influenced by his older brother’s funky record collection
  • How his drum parts keep evolving over the years
  • How RHCP typically writes/records together (even after 40 years!)
  • His love of cross-sticking
  • The beat you should learn if you want a career as a drummer
  • Why you should “play it like you mean it”

To get drumless tracks and sheet music for over a dozen RHCP songs (and 5000+ other songs), jump on Drumeo’s free 7-day trial!

Chad Smith’s journey as the drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers has been one of passion, dedication, goofiness and talent. From his powerful playing style, his memorable drum parts and his fun-loving personality, he’s left an unforgettable mark on the world of rock music.

Through collabs, recordings and live performances, Smith continues to inspire drummers worldwide. His contributions to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the music industry as a whole are huge, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest drummers of all time.

Edited by Sam Landa, Content Marketing Manager at Drumeo

Drumeo Team - We're professional, award-winning drummers and drum teachers, coaches, recording artists, and content specialists who are passionate about drums and helping drummers around the world. This post was written and/or edited by Sam Landa, Brandon Toews, Jared Falk, Dave Atkinson, or another pro on our team (which has a combined 1000+ years of drumming experience). Are you looking for inspiration, education, and support to take your playing to the next level? Join the Drumeo community today!

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