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Behind The Sounds - Chip Powell

Chip Powell 1Every time we attend a concert, there are people at work whom we may or may not know nor notice. These are people whose job is to make our experience as wonderful as possible. To that group of people who work behind the scenes in the Jazz community here in Philadelphia, we'd like to acknowledge their work and commitment. This series of articles, entitled Behind The Sounds is dedicated to the sound engineers.


Powell Live Sound (PLS) was formed to fulfill sound engineer, Chip Powell's passion for working with brilliant talent and state-of-the-art equipment in the service of live music production. Through PLS, Powell provides Front Of House/monitor mix, remote 32 track Pro Tools digital recording and system design services. PLS is also proud to be a dealer of Earthworks, PreSonus and WorxAudio products. The same gear that PLS uses to deliver superlative sound quality to my clients. PLS brings studio quality production to wherever live music is played to capture the magic and spontaneity of the moment.

Chip Powell has over 40 years of experience in a wide range of audio engineering and visual arts disciplines including HW/SW product development, audio system design, live sound mixing, remote recording, video production and web development. Powell is a steering committee member of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Audio Engineering Society and a member of the Philadelphia Chapter of The National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences.


PJP Spoke with sound engineer, Chip Powell about his philosphy and his work as a sound engineer.

PJP: Can you describe your creative direction as a sound engineer?


Chip Powell: Above all it’s to faithfully transmit the vision the artist wants to present to their audience. To do so, when mixing a live performance I believe:

1)    Every instrument must be heard.

2)    If there are vocals, they are always the most important and must ride comfortably over the rest of the mix.

3)    The musicians monitor system takes precedence over the house.  They must be able to hear themselves properly to be relaxed and enabled to deliver their best.   

4)    The audience’s ears must be respected; excessive volume is unacceptable.

5)    The PA system should never shift focus from the band by being a perceived sound source itself; rather it should faithfully reproduce the natural sound of the signals being mixed and preserve the illusion that what’s being heard is all from the band itself. The PA should be effectively invisible.     

PJP: Can you tell us a little about your studio, or your business as a sound engineer?


Chip Powell 2Chip Powell: I provide freelance live sound reinforcement, remote recording and system consultation services through my business, Powell Live Sound Engineering, LLC.  On the recording side I specialize in bringing studio quality production to the performance venue in the form of a 32 track Pro Tools rig and a microphone locker any studio would be happy to have.

PJP: What inspired you to work in sound?


Chip Powell: I love working at the confluence of art and science in pursuits that bring people together.  Audio Engineering fulfills that. I was hooked early on after seeing my first live show, The Doors circa 1970.  It blew my mind. I knew from that moment working with sound was my calling.

PJP: How long have you been doing this work?


Chip Powell: I have over 40 years of experience in the field.

PJP: What keeps you motivated?


Chip Powell: Clearly it’s the joy of live music and the wonderful community that makes and supports it.  It’s my tribe and emblematic of the world I want to live in.

PJP: Can you share a bright moment from your work?


Chip Powell: Gosh there are so many.  I get chills when a performance becomes transcendent; when all the components (the music, players and mix) combine to transport everyone in the room to a higher place.  It’s thrilling every time.     


Chip Powell 3

PJP: We know that audio is a science, but what makes it an art?


Chip Powell: Like in any craft the key is to sense/know which tool to use at each stage of a signal path to faithfully pass that signal to its endpoints.  These decisions and how to acquire those signals in the first place define how well we, as artists in our own right, paint with sound.

PJP: Why Jazz? When you could be doing anything else, Why this music?


Chip Powell: Why jazz, because Jazz tells America’s story.  There is nothing ephemeral about it.  It chronicles our struggles as a people, speaks out against injustice and gives voice to our inspirations of what should be.  It’s an honor to contribute to this community, to work with musicians at the top of their game and to help nurture the next generation who will carry our story forward.






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Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.


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If it hadn't been for him, there wouldn't have been none of us. I want to thank Mr. Louis Armstrong for my livelihood.
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Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.