This past March in Nashville, the drum manufacturer Pearl Corporation held a luncheon for local drummers to try out some of the company’s newest offerings. An estimated 150 attendees demoed five different Masterworks Sonic Select Recipes drumsets, which comprise the latest additions to the company’s high-end Masterworks series, along with five new Modern Utility snares.

For the Sonic Select series, Pearl developed five distinct wood combinations, each boasting a unique tonal quality. The Studio model has maple and gumwood shells with 60-degree outer edges. The Heritage has maple and mahogany shells with 45-degree outer edges and maple reinforcement rings. The Urban has a birch/gumwood/birch combination with maple reinforcement rings and 45-degree rounded edges. The Stadium has maple shells and outer 60-degree edges. And the Modern Dry has maple and gumwood shells with mahogany reinforcement rings and inner 45-degree edges.

“Up until now, all Masterworks kits have been custom built,” says Steve Armstrong, Pearl’s director of marketing. “That made it rare for anyone to have an opportunity to play five different kits in one place.” And because of the company’s location in Music City, Pearl has plenty of drummers in its backyard. “We value the feedback we get from Nashville drummers,” Armstrong says. “It’s like having a massive focus group.”

Pearl artist and Yellowjackets drummer Will Kennedy presented a clinic while playing a Masters Maple Reserve kit, the newest addition to Pearl’s Music City Custom series. He was first introduced to the new Sonic Select Recipes at Nashville Drum Day. “I’m in big trouble now,” Kennedy said with a grin at the event. “I have Reference and Reference Pure kits, and I’ll never give those up. But, oh my goodness, to have these five new Recipes… These are wonderful tools of expression, and that’s what playing drums is all about. It’s about being able to have your equipment become transparent, allowing you to freely focus on the music that you’re performing. These new drums are a great invitation for that to take place in performance.” Kennedy’s favorite set was the Urban. “This is the one that grabbed my heart. The sound is rich and warm with incredible dynamic range.”

Nashville session drummer Wes Little (Robben Ford) said of the Sonic Select kits, “Pearl has tailored these five drumsets to the player’s sound rather than the other way around.” Little was drawn to the Modern Dry line and its older, vintage sound.

Pearl’s use of gumwood is new to the Masterworks series. “When we were developing the Sonic Select kits, we started off using maple, birch, and African mahogany,” Armstrong explains. “Those woods got us where we wanted to be with several sets. But to achieve the other sounds we wanted, gumwood was added. It’s a medium-density wood that produces explosive tones and increased volume. It was added to the Studio, Urban, and Modern Dry sets.”

According to Pearl, the new Modern Utility series is a line of five well-appointed, no-nonsense snares priced under $200 each. Tom Hurst, instructor at the Drum Pad at the Nashville equipment rental center Drum Paradise, wants one of each. “In Nashville we’re often called upon to play in numerous musical situations that require quite a range of stylistic applications,” he says. “This Utility snare line provides an unbelievable quality of sound and a broad range of versatility at a price point that is so low that I could own them all and be covered for any eventuality without breaking the bank.” Another Nashville educator, George Lawrence (Poco), was impressed with the array of options. “I think the Modern Utility snares sounded so good and are so affordable that they could become the workhorse snares for Nashville working drummers,” he says.

Kennedy best sums up the event: “[Drumming is] about being able to close your eyes and get deep into the music that you’re performing. There’s something really wonderful about that perspective of playing. It’s not about you or your chops. It’s about what you’re doing to contribute to the music. With tools like the Sonic Select Recipes, you can express yourself freely and take your playing to another space.”