James Knoerl: The Internet’s Best-Value, Remote Session Drummer?

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Being A One-Man Band Has Been Overwhelmingly Difficult

The bulk of my music career has been somewhat insular, couped up in a dark studio writing bleak dubstep and techno as Commit.

Over the past year though, I decided to explore new territory in an attempt to challenge myself.

I dusted off the guitar and embarked on a ‘band’ project, that had no other members besides myself.

For some context, I had just moved to Malaysia.

I abandoned my home studio in Australia — sold off everything in my studio besides my trusty Audient ID14 soundcard, a pair of Beyerdynamic DT 770 headphones, and some clothes.

I now lived in a small apartment in a new country where I knew just a handful of people, and I knew that completing an entire rock EP by myself would be a challenge, particularly in the drum department.

After buying a budget Squier Tele in Malaysia and a few guitar pedals, I began sketching out songs in my new temporary home.

I used sample drums as a guide to form the structure of the songs, but knew that I’d want a session drummer to bring them to life once I was ready.

In a couple of months I had a few tracks ready to send off to remote session drummers to do their thing, so I began my hunt for the perfect online session drummer for my project.

The Quest For The ‘Perfect’ Session Drummer

If you’ve read any of my previous Fiverr articles, you probably know I’m a big fan of the platform.

Fiverr is a freelance marketplace which is most known for cheap, discounted labor — often at the expense of quality.

I do tend to agree — Fiverr is just kind of like that. It’s saturated with sellers all trying to outdo each other on price that quality can become severely diluted.

Search hard enough though, and you’re bound to find diamonds in the rough.

One such gem I found was none other than James Christopher Knoerl, a remote session drummer who I tried out for a project once and has been my goto ever since.

He’s by no means the cheapest on Fiverr, but rest assured you’re getting every penny’s worth.


James Knoerl: The Best Online Session Drummer on Fiverr?

If you’ve not used Fiverr before, I’ll quickly break it down for you as to how the process it works. It’s quite simple.

You create an account (it’s free), link it to either your card/Paypal, and you can then browse through the thousands of freelancers available for hire using the search tool.

Get 10% off your order by using this link and entering HIVE10 at checkout.

As much as I wish he was, James was not actually the first online session drummer I tried. I went through about 3 other candidates on Fiverr for my little grunge project, and each produced poor to moderate results at best.

Skill level is one thing, but recording quality cannot be ignored when a polished, studio product is the aim of the game. Out of the 4 drummers I tried, only James Knoerl was able to satisfy both criteria.

He is also incredibly easy to work with — patient, polite, and friendly. And for building a long term relationship with a musician, this is super important to me.

“My approach to online recording is being super communicative with my clients and adding my own improvisational flair to your songs if needed or just laying it down and playing the groove.”James Knoerl

James Knoerl: Short Bio

James has over 17 years of experience playing drums. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Drumset Performance from Berklee College of Music and in 2017, recorded over 350 songs.

Recording credits include: HBO, Disney, Verizon, and countless other songwriters and bands.

He has toured all over the world with bands such as The Faceless, Threat Signal, Native Construct, Aviations, Brotherhood of Grace, Blumen, The Omega Experiment, as well as a six-month contract aboard the Carnival Fantasy!

Why James Knoerl Was The Best Remote Session Drummer For My Project

You have to do the research and pick the right drummer for the job. This can’t be overstated.

Picking a drummer who specializes in jazz ensemble for my grunge project just wasn’t going to cut it, and would’ve wasted both my time and his.

With James, I knew from the get-go what his ‘style’ is like: a heavy-hitter that is influenced by progressive metal elements and with buckets of technical flair.

One thing I noticed about his playing that was also critical in my decision was his ability to pinpoint pockets in the song where accents and embellishments made sense, instead of just doing drum fills across the entire track just for the sake of it.

 
Hire James For Your Next Project
If you’re looking for an online drummer to session record in your next project, why not give James a try? Sign up using this link here and use the code HIVE10 at checkout to get 10% off your first order.

Briefing Your Online Session Drummer

If there’s anything I’ve learned about project management over the years, it’s that if your brief sucks, you’ve already wasted your time (and money).

Being able to properly articulate what your expectations are out of a session gig is paramount to getting the results you desire.

With James, the briefing process was actually very simple and straightforward.

As I already had programmed drum ideas into my song beforehand, it was just a matter of showing him my (poorly) executed ideas and having him bring them to life.

In the beginning, I was reluctant to send the track with my drum programming on it, because I did want him to do his own thing as opposed to simply copying what I had programmed in.

Turns out it actually benefited the song to send with my drum ideas, because he could better understand my vision and do what was necessary to serve the song the way I imagined it.

Managing Drum Recording Revisions

Part of the deal you get with James is that he gives you a few revisions, so you have a chance to iron out any sections that you feel could be executed a little better.

In freelancing gigs, it’s usually this stage of the process that can tend to cause some headaches. It becomes too easy for it to evolve into a messy tug-of-war, with clients over-demanding, and sellers over-promising.

Fortunately, this was not the case with James. His work ethic is professional, clear-cut and is able to efficiently and patiently manage whatever request you might have for your revisions.

I’ve hired him for about 4 tracks now, and I’m usually about 80-90% happy with the first set of takes.

The revisions allow me a chance to be a little bit anal and have him tweak a fill here or there, or maybe even revise a groove for a certain section.

I’ll use Google Docs and simply write my thoughts down with some timestamps and send it to him.

The first bundle of takes combined with the revisions is always more than enough for me to call the job done.

Below is a short video clip of a drum recording take I received back for one of my tracks. I was completely blown away by how he accented all the right parts and served the song to its full potential.

 

Equipment Used, And My Thoughts On Recording Quality

James’ Equipment List

DW Collector’s Snare
Offbeat 6.5×14 Cymbals
Meinl Shoes
Vratim Pedals
Trick Big Foots Accessories
Big Fat Snare Drum
Sunhouse Sensory Percussion
Roland SPD – SX
———-
Interface – MOTU 8-Pre
Kick In – Shure Beta 91
Kick Out – Audix D6
Snare Top – Shure Beta57
Snare Bottom – Shure SM57
Tom 1 – MD 421s
Tom 2 – MD 421s
Tom 3 – Sennheiser E604
Tom 4 – Sennheiser E604
Overheads – Gauge ECM 84s
Ride – Samson C02
Hi-Hat – Shure SM7b
Rooms – Gauge ECM87s
Mono Room – MXL 909
 
Drum recording is not only hard to master, but is also a very expensive endeavor. 

James is no doubt a professional — I’m not sure how he does it, but he’s obviously a perfectionist and it shows in his recordings. Everything from the room treatment, mic placement and drum tuning is on point, and I couldn’t be happier with the takes.

What I also loved about the experience is that James takes initiative to suggest different types of snare drums that would work tonally for the song.

The raw takes often required very little warping. James’ internal clock is really something else, and it made the process of comping and chopping up takes a breeze.

P.S. You can also opt to have James post-process the drum takes for a bit of extra coin. If you’re looking to save some time I definitely recommend that extra service but due to budget constraints I mostly chose to take care of post processing myself.


If you’re looking for an online drummer to session record in your next project, why not give James a try? Sign up using this link here and I’ll receive a small commission from Fiverr for helping him out, and you’ll get 10% off your  order. Everybody wins!