Chad Smith has become a household name in the drumming industry. He’s one of the greats of rock, punk, and funk drumming, with so many people listing him as their top drumming influence.
He’s been the main drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers for decades, and his hard and heavy drumming style is instantly recognizable in all of the band’s songs.
In this guide, we’re going to analyze his setup and sound. I’ll list all of the gear that he uses, and I’ll explain how it works within his setup. I’ll also delve into a bit of what makes Chad Smith such an amazing drummer.
- Who Is Chad Smith?
- Chad Smith Drum Set Breakdown
- Bands and Associated Acts
- What Makes Chad Smith a Great Drummer?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Who Is Chad Smith?
Chad Smith was born in St Paul, Minnesota. He started playing drums when he was seven years of age, and like most kids growing up in the 70s, he was a big fan of all the rock bands of the time.
As I’ve studied drummers from this era, I’ve seen a common trend of them all being into bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Rush.
I can clearly see how Chad Smith’s drumming was influenced by these bands, but it’s incredible to see how he carved his own path and became arguably one of the most famous drummers in the world.
He joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1988, and he’s been with the band ever since. Since then, the band has sold hundreds of millions of albums, including Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Stadium Arcadium. Chad Smith was also inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
So, I think it’s safe to say that he’s one of the greats of the drumming industry.
Now, let’s move on to his setup!
Chad Smith Drum Set Breakdown
For as long as I can remember, Chad Smith played Pearl Drums and Sabian cymbals. He was actually one of the reasons that my first china cymbal was a Sabian model, as I saw a Red Hot Chili Peppers DVD where Chad Smith was using one of his signature Holy Chinas.
However, he switched over to DW Drums and Paiste cymbals in the last few years, and he’s been using those on the latest tours with the band.
So, here is all the gear that you can regularly see him using:
Chad Smith’s Cymbals
I’ve always known Paiste to be the go-to brand for classic rock and punk drummers.
Paiste cymbals cater so well to heavier styles, so it makes sense that Chad Smith utilizes them.
His signature playing style is hard and heavy, so you’ll find that all of his cymbals match that energy.
Both sets are loud and striking, with the Signature hats having a slightly glossier sound to better cut through mixes.
Smith uses three different Paiste 2002 crashes in his setup. The first two are both Paiste 2002 Extreme Crashes. The one is a 19” version, while the other is a 20” version. These cymbals produce thick and heavy crashing sounds.
The final crash is a Paiste PST X Swiss 20” Medium Crash, which produces a trashier sound for those unique accent grooves and fills.
For a ride, Chad Smith uses the Paiste 2002 24” Ride Cymbal. This thing sounds massive, and I just love how articulate it is on the bow.
Chad Smith’s Snare Drum
There have been a few signature Chad Smith snare drums produced over the years by Pearl and PDP. However, I checked out quite a few recent live performances that he did, and he mostly plays the DW Collector’s Series Metal Snare Drum.
This snare has a 1mm stainless steel shell, making it sound incredibly open and resonant. It has a big tone that lives up to the powerful playing style of Chad Smith.
I also love how the shiny shell matches the matte silver kit that he’s been touring with.
In his recent appearance on Drumeo, he used a whole kit with this design. Ironically, the snare drum in those videos is different. But this metal snare seems to be his latest favorite.
Chad Smith’s Drum Kit
Chad Smith plays a DW Collector’s Series Drum Set. In all the recent videos I’ve seen, he’s used a few different ones, but they’ve all been variations of the Collector’s Series.
When the Chili Peppers toured in 2022, he played on a matte silver one, which I think looked incredible on stage. He’s also been using an acrylic kit, which looks great on stage.
He’s been using the same drum shell sizes for years, even when he was with Pearl.
- 24” x 18” bass drum
- 12” x 9” rack tom
- 14” x 14” floor tom
- 16” x 16” floor tom
I’ve occasionally seen him using rata toms in his setup, but not all the time.
Chad Smith’s Drum Heads
Remo is the one drum brand that Chad Smith has stuck with for decades. You can always see Remo heads on all the drum sets that he performs with.
I’ve most commonly seen him using Remo Controlled Sound heads on his toms. It’s become quite an iconic look for his setups, as these heads have a thick black dot in the center.
They make your drums sound a lot punchier, which suits Chad Smith’s intense drumming style. His toms always sound very tight and vibrant, but they resonate quite musically as well.
On his snare drum, you’ll typically see a Remo Ambassador. This is honestly one of the best snare drumheads ever, with most drummers loving it. I’ve also seen him use a coated version of the Controlled Sound head.
He uses a Remo Powerstroke 3 for his bass drum. It’s a single-ply kick drumhead that brings out the oomph of any kick shell while remaining quite durable.
Chad Smith’s Drum Hardware and Other Gear
Chad Smith mainly utilizes DW’s 9000 Series hardware, which is the brand’s flagship range.
The very last thing to mention is that he uses his Signature Cowbell from Latin Percussion. It’s one of the loudest cowbells on the market, and he makes good use of it in dozens of songs. I love its bright red color, as it makes it instantly recognizable in his setup.
Bands and Associated Acts
Interestingly, Chad Smith wasn’t the first drummer for The Red Hot Chili Peppers. They had another guy named D.H. Peligro who was fired from the group before he joined. He auditioned with a bunch of other drummers. He got the gig, and the rest is history.
Apart from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which I’d say is one of the most recognizable bands of all time, Chad Smith has been part of a few other groups.
He joined a band called Chickenfoot in 2008, which included the likes of Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony, and Joe Satriani. It was a modern day supergroup, but Smith got replaced as the touring drummer due to his hectic schedule with The Peppers.
I loved hearing him play with this band, as I’m also a big fan of Joe Satriani.
He also has his own band called Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats. It’s an instrumental funk band, and they recorded three albums between 2009 and 2012.
What Makes Chad Smith a Great Drummer?
While Chad Smith is certainly a powerful drummer, my favorite thing about his playing is his ability to play tight and controlled ghost notes.
Every single groove he plays sounds so articulate and tight, and it’s mainly due to how he creates a solid feel with his ghost notes.
I love listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers songs where he sits in the groove. You can hear those ghost notes so clearly, which is often not the case with studio album songs.
He also has a quick right foot, allowing him to play speedy bass drum patterns. When he plays drum fills, he often incorporates that quick foot to play very creative and cool-sounding patterns.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, but they have a similar appearance. It’s been a big joke for a long time that they’re actually the same person.
It went as far as Chad Smith wearing a shirt saying that he’s not Will Ferrell for a few gigs. The two of them also did a drum-off on Jimmy Fallon.
Who Are Chad Smith’s Favorite Drummers and Influences?
I’ve seen a few interviews where Chad Smith mentions Buddy Rich, Mitch Mitchell, Ian Paice, John Bonham, and Keith Moon as his biggest influences.
He was a big rock music fan growing up, so most of his favorite drummers were from the big rock bands of the time.