How to Design and Order Your Pearl Masterworks Drum Kit

Pearl’s Masterworks series is the ultimate in customisation and personal expression, offering seemingly endless options on hardware, finish and setup. This article explains how you can order your very own with Andertons Music Co!

For two decades, Masterworks kits have been the envy of drummers all over the world. Ordering your own one-of-a-kind custom kit might seem daunting at first, but that’s where we come in. Andertons Music Co. can take you through the process, from design to delivery.

How Do I Order a Pearl Masterworks Drum Kit?

Pearl Masterworks lets you easily customise your dream kit in just about any way you can imagine. The hard part is knowing what you want and not being daunted by how many different options there are. Once you have an idea of the sound you’re after and what finish you want, the process is easy. And to make the process, even more, pain free we have interest free financing options up to 36 months too!

You can order over the phone, online or come into the store. It’s great fun getting involved with the design process and creating your dream kit. If you do it over the phone we’ll send a few emails and make sure you’re 100% happy with the final design. If you do it in store we’ll play some drums, get inspired from our display stock and see if there are any elements you want to steal and add to your design. We’ll have a walk through the shop and see if we can find your perfect finish on another instrument, then sit down, have a cuppa, and fill the forms in - one drum at a time.

Andertons Music Co. is the biggest Masterworks dealer in the UK and Europe so if you need a helping hand designing your kit ring/email or pop in store and ask for Rob in the drum department; our Masterworks specialist. He’ll talk you through all the options and help you design your perfect kit.

There are lots of factors that will affect the sound and playability of the kit, shell composition, hardware/fittings, heads and tuning, so let’s dive in and see what’s possible!

Interested? Get in touch now!

Designing Your Masterworks

Having a plan in your head is a good start. If you have no idea what you want then it is best to talk with our Masterworks specialist and put a design theme together tailored to your specifications. If you’re lucky enough to know what you want already it makes the design process easy. But not knowing and designing as you go is where the fun really starts!

Some customers have come in over a period of a couple of months, played some drums for inspiration and eventually changed their mind on what they originally wanted. The sound is the key element and knowing how you like the drums tuned and the contrast of pitch and gaps you like across your toms is important.

Knowing what you class as a good drum sound and trying to describe it is quite hard and is very personal to each player but is key to buying a tailored Masterworks shell pack.

Once you have picked your sound it’s time to figure out which woods you will need to achieve it.

Designing the finish is next, making a mood board or looking at the shell packs in store as inspiration is a good start. We can put more than one image of a finish together.

“I want a nice sunburst like this colour but the middle stripe I want more like this red and then I want it on top of this kind of grained wood.”

– All of this is possible. So we really can make the perfect kit for you.

The Configuration

The sizes of your drums don’t just affect the sound of your kit but the setup of your kit. Picking the right sizes is the first step of the process and like every step in the design process, it’s down to personal preference.

The diameter and depth of each shell is a massive factor in the shell’s tone, resonance and tune-ability. Pearl will make all regular sizes between 8-26 inches and various depths. Whether you want square sized power toms from the 80s or massive long bass drums and subs from the 90s or the short stack toms from the 2000s you can have it on your Masterworks.

Pick sizes you have played before, make sure you are comfortable playing drums of these sizes. I wouldn’t recommend ordering sizes you haven’t played before. I remember ordering an 18” bass drum for one of my kits “thinking” I wanted and needed it. After waiting for it to arrive I found I just didn’t enjoy playing it.

On the flip side, picking add-on toms to make the shell pack special is another thought. I have ordered 8” add-on toms for customers who wanted a three-up set up but didn’t have space.

Start with the core drum setup the sizes you are familiar with, then any new sizes are just add-ons. Consider your finish choice too when picking your sizes. Some stripe designs will work better on deeper drums for example. If you’re not sure what sizes you want to commit to when ordering, come into the store and try some or talk to our specialist.

Shell Composition

Next, comes choosing your woods. Not only can you choose the types of woods, but also the thickness of each ply. This is maybe the hardest part of the design process and the one that drummers find the most daunting.

Knowing which woods you want can be tricky if you haven’t played lots of kits. You won’t necessarily know the different tones that different woods can produce. That’s where we come in.

Let’s take you through the options and properties from these different wood choices. Pearl offer maple, birch, mahogany and gumwood as base woods. Then black limba, flamed maple, Zebrawood, Tamo ash, Bubinga and eucalyptus as artisan finishing plys. All of these woods have been used by all of the major manufacturers over the years, with some being favoured for their depth and warmth, whilst others provide punch and dynamics.

  • Maple is a good all-rounder and has been used in drum building for decades. It makes shells with great warmth and soft decays as well as being very tuneable.
  • Birch will give you a quicker drum with great projection. Ideal for a punchy sounding kit.
  • Mahogany is the best wood to use if you like your drums to have rich low end with strength and punch.
  • Gumwood is a new wood from Pearl for 2017; a medium density wood that has lots of projection and is suggested to be used as a core ply to enhance other woods, like a catalyst to excite the surrounding plies.

Obviously, you can then complicate the decision by making a hybrid of all of above to mix the proprieties and get the best sound for you.

Carbon Fibre and Fibreglass

It doesn’t stop with wood either. You can add a layer of carbon fibre on the inner and outer ply or fibreglass on the inside ply if you wish. The carbon fibre outer ply is just a great choice if you want a dark looking kit but a bit different or special.

The dense Carbon fibre inner ply effects the sound, making the pitch of the drum higher with a quick attack. This works really well on snares. A fibreglass inner ply is an option on the Masterworks that has been introduced at NAMM 2017 but is an element of Pearl’s past from the 80s. The fibreglass warms the drum up a bit and makes the shell softer with less attack.

The Bearing Edge Profile

Next step is bearing edge profile cut on the shell. This is a key element of the design dictating how much of the shell is in contact with the head. Different bearing edge profiles will change the sound of the drum and don’t have to be the same across all drums. You can even have different bearing edges on the same drum. If you wanted to give your snare more warmth without reducing the attack – you could have a sharp 45-degree bearing edge on the top and a rounded bearing edge on the resonate head. It can all be tailored to each drum to capitalise on the sound property that it can produce.

Pearl give you four options, sharp 45-degree, rounded 45, fully rounded and new for 2017 60-degree cut. What does this mean for the tone of the shell? A sharp 45-degree provides the perfect blend of attack and warmth and is great for snares. Rounded 45 gives boosted mids and highs for a rich tone. A fully rounded bearing edge will give a great bottom end to a drum and is perfect for bass drums. The drum shells tone and response is influenced by the bearing edge profile massively and should be carefully considered when planning the design of the kit.

Air Vents

This is an element that gets over looked too often, as it doesn’t seem that important or exciting. But it does have an effect on the sound of the shell and should be factored into your design carefully. Put simply the air vent dictates how the air in the shell moves and escapes.

Having air vents allows the drum to breathe, if you have a drum without air vents it will sound boxy or bongy. If you have a thick shell it can be a good way of making sure the shell isn’t overpowering by putting lots of air vents in. When you strike the head of the drum the air and sound wave then travels to the bottom head before it starts to bounce back and forth. Air vents let some of that air escape reducing the pressure and allowing the shell to resonate naturally.

Removing the air vents and increasing the air pressure can change how the drum feels. Just like the difference you might feel between a bass drum with a mic hole compared to one without. Losing the air vents makes the drums feel bouncier, affecting your control when you play.

Masterworks Finishes – Endless Choices

Like every part of a Pearl Masterworks kit, the finish is completely customisable. Whether you have a defined colour in your head or wanted to put a mood board together to inspire the design, everything is possible.

In the past, customers have taken inspiration from guitars hanging on the wall in the shop, a beautiful car or even your favourite shirt. The colour choice is so personal and it’s important that it fits into your studio, stage theme or home environment.

The colour could be a fade, a burst, solid colour, natural wood or a combination of any of these. You can have a wrap, a lacquer, natural veneer, have it straight, twisted, vertical the options are endless. The new exciting option for 2017 is to have an artisan internal veneer as well. This means if you can’t decide the colour you want you could have a second choice by having an outer and inner colour, this looks especially good with wood veneers.

Once you’ve chosen a colour you can take it further with high gloss, matte, satin oil, marbleized or textured finish, add stripes and patterns. 

In the image above you can see just how detailed we can get when it comes to designing these kits. Every element from the placement and width of the stripes, to their alignment with the lugs, was designed to the millimetre. What Pearl produced is simply stunning. They took the design and brought it to life.

Masterworks Hardware

Picking the hardware/fittings for your shells is one of the final steps but is an important one.

The fittings can be the final finishing touch to the drum and can also affect the feel and the sound. For example, the feel of a snare’s rim shot is affected by hoop selection, die cast feels so different to triple flange.

The lugs and tom mount will also affect how the drum sound, heavier thicker lugs will choke the shell a small amount. You can even have different hoops across the shells in the same kit. Die Cast hoops can add weight to a floor tom or snare drum. Whereas fatTone hoops allow the toms to resonate, bringing a lighter element to their sound.

The hardware/fittings are available in different finishes to complement your design. You can choose from standard Chrome, Nickel, Black Chrome or Gold. The colour choice can also be different on each drum or even different top and bottom on a single drum.

So, want chrome hardware on the toms, nickel on the bass drum and gold on the snare? Not a problem.

The Easiest Way to order a Masterworks drum kit

New for 2017, Pearl has produced their ‘Sonic Select Recipes’ to make the process of getting your Masterworks simpler.

Essentially they have created 5 ‘flavours’ of Masterworks. Each defined by a genre to help you find a kit that best suits your playing. Each brings its own combination of woods, bearing edges, finishes and more. To find out more about these recipes, read our guide here.


Masterworks is Pearl’s Flagship series and has been for nearly two decades. The quality and attention to detail is world class and truly unrivalled.

At Andertons we do everything we can to make the design process easy and enjoyable. And more achievable thanks to our long term finance options; up to 36 months interest-free.

Masterworks order and production time is 4-6 months depending on the complexity of the design. Multiple coats of lacquer take longer.

Owning a Masterworks puts you in a very elite group of drummers. They truly are special. You will always remember the first time you played your Masterworks.

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