Does Danny Carey Play to a Click?

Tool drummer Danny Carey is one of the best drummers in the rock world today. And Tool’s sound is almost too complex to be played by just 4 people. So, does Danny Carey play to a click?

Danny Carey of Tool does not play to a click on stage or while recording, nor does Tool use any backing tracks on stage. Carey believes not using a click track during performances allows him to have a more organic quality to his drumming.

Danny told Alternative Nation that he hates the idea of using clicks to sound pristine and perfect.

He believes too many bands are quantizing beats, getting the perfect take, and overdubbing. This gives a sterile and impersonal quality to a song.

And this is the reason he intentionally doesn’t play click track in his performances.

He also gave his opinions when Rhythm Magazine asked where he sees musicians going wrong?

Carey says:   

“You have to put yourself in this environment that’s vulnerable and go off in the moment. Those late ‘60s/ early ‘70s bands used clicks too much and got super-weird. Even early Judas Priest was pretty weird when you listen to it.”

But how does he get his drumming to sound so precise?

And what about those times in Tool shows where you can hear Maynard’s backing vocals while he’s singing something different?

Let’s dive in deeper.

Does Tool use backing tracks?

The band Tool has never used backing tracks during live performances. However, singer Maynard does have pre-recorded backing vocals of himself on a keyboard that he will manually trigger during shows at specific sections of certain songs.

Many modern-day musicians use backing tracks to perfect their performances.

You can hear it in live performances from bands as diverse as Mötley Crüe to Coldplay. If you’ve ever seen a band live and heard a guitar solo but noticed the rhythm guitar part never stopped (assuming they just have 1 guitar player like the Crüe), that’s an obvious use of backing tracks.

Although in some cases, bands will have extra musicians backstage playing those parts. 

The Eagles, ZZ Top, and even The Ramones have all done that at least at one point in their career. But for Tool, the band never needed backing tracks.

But what about other techniques like autotune? 

Does Maynard use that to alter his voice sometimes? Luckily, I get into Tool’s use of autotune and more about Maynard’s vocal samples in this recent article.

So if you want to know more about how he does that, just click on that link to read it on my site.

Where does Danny Carey rank as a drummer?

Tool’s drummer Danny Carey ranks number 26 in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time as of 2016. Another survey by MusicRadar placed him at number 6. 

According to Rolling Stone, in creating the list:

“Rolling Stone values nuance and musicality over chops and flash, celebrating players who knew the value of aiding a great song more than hogging up a show with a silly solo.” 

Danny Carey is undoubtedly one of the best drummers ever.

Carey did not only find his way in Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest drummers but also among the Top 30 Greatest Drummers of All Time in Music Radar’s list.

In June 2021, MusicRadar opened a poll for the public to vote for the best drummers. And as I mentioned, Danny Carey grabbed slot number 6.

Tool also values quality over quantity.

Despite having formed in 1990, the band only puts out an album approximately every 6.2 years. Danny Carey’s place is a force to be reckoned with in the band.

Carey merges the power and the groove of Zeppelin’s John Bonham with the prog of Bill Bruford or Neil Peart.

Danny Carey’s drumming skills introduce the whole generation of music lovers to polyrhythms and odd time signatures, making him a living prodigy.

How is Danny Carey so good at drums?

Danny Carey of Tool is an excellent drummer with years of practice and intense formal training. He began learning the drums at age 10 in his school band. In high school, he joined the school jazz band, which expanded his techniques and introduced him to alternate time signatures.

He is among the greatest rock drummers.

Born in Kansas City, Danny Carey’s first interaction with drums was when he turned 10. He soon joined a school band and took private lessons. To gain more knowledge, he also studied percussion with theory into the principles of geometry, science, and metaphysics.

He eventually left Kansas and moved to Oregon and then Las Vegas. During these years, he got the opportunity to play with legends like Carol King and Pigmy Love Circus in live sets.

All this training and exploration paved Carey’s way to Tool, a band that allowed him to play a staggering 1,734 shows between 1992 and 2019.

It is safe to say that the years of formal training and over 30 years of practice have made him a master at his craft. Not just that, he is always in search of new techniques.

Danny Carey never fails to impress his audience with his performances which are nothing short of magic.

Unlike many artists who use substances like drugs to enhance their capabilities, Carey trusts his music as his only drug.

According to Danny Carey: 

“When I play to an odd time signature, I try to drum to the ‘feel’ of the song and establish a general ‘inner pulse’ for the given time signature instead of entirely counting it out.”

Want to know which of the Tool members used drugs?

Read my recent article to find out if using drugs is what helps Tool members deliver such meticulous but “out there” music. And does Maynard really use meth to cope with the lasting effects of having COVID?

Just click on that link.

Does Danny Carey use ear monitors?

Danny Carey of the rock band Tool does not use ear monitors. He uses a traditional monitor speaker next to his drum throne that allows him to hear the other members of the band.

The band’s monitor manager Chris Gilpin believes him to be an audio purist.

Abbreviated as IEMS, In-Ear Monitor Systems are the hearing devices used by musicians to listen to their music as they are playing during a performance.

They potentially damage the ears less than blaring speakers. And they also allow musicians to hear only what they want to hear without noise from the amplifiers on stage.

However, Danny Carey isn’t fond of the device.

Tool’s monitor manager, who is well-acquainted with the specific needs of each band member, mentions Keenan had used in-ear monitors on previous tours, including Ultimate Ears UE5 custom molds and a Shure PSM700 wireless system.

But Danny Carey and other band members rely on an array of Showco Prism wedges, plus the sound of the backline equipment.

Chris Gilpin says: 

“The other guys talked about trying in-ears. But to be honest, I can’t imagine a situation where they would be happy. And it’s certainly not a criticism of anyone, but they are audio purists, and they want it to sound a certain way.”

He also added:

“It’s been a long road to get it to the point where they can say, ‘Yes, that’s the way I want it to sound.’ It was a constant battle [through Europe] up until the point I stepped up to floor wedges and gave them all the headroom they needed.”

Who are Danny Carey’s influences?

Some of the biggest influences in Danny Carey’s drumming career include Lenny White of Return to Forever, Tony Williams and Billy Cobham, both from Miles Davis’ band, and Zeppelin’s John Bonham.

While not an influence, he also loves Tim Alexander from Primus.

Danny Carey of the Tool band has enjoyed a multi-decade-long career growing and meeting with drummers who were considered legends in their time.

Among these popular influences (which I have mentioned above) on Danny’s life include one more name- King Crimson.

According to Danny himself, the progressive rock masters, King Crimson, were pivotal in evolving music and created never heard sounds.

Carey said:

“Those Crimson guys, they were the heaviest of that era! They felt dangerous. We had them come out and open for Tool because when they weren’t doing that well or whatever – and to return the favor, they had my other band Pigmy Love Circus open for them.”

Tool - Danny Carey Update August 2020


Tool’s drummer Danny Carey has performed with the band Tool for over 30 years. During these years, he has never played to clicks but relies on his drumming ability.

He thinks that only a few bands today do not use click or backing tracks during live shows.

In an interview with Rhythm Magazine, he also reflected on his collaboration with King Crimson’s Adrian Belew and his side project Pigmy Love Circus.

He believed their sound wasn’t perfect, and they weren’t syncing, but they never used clicks.

Photo which requires attribution:

danny by Scott Penner is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

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