Ear fatigue

Hi all

Being new to mixing in general, I’ve taken into account wise advice of mixing at low volumes, taking breaks and so on. But while mixing I get what I term “ear fatigue”. Basically listening to the mix over and over, after some time I lose the ability to understand what’s happening in the mix. At this point I start making stupid decision with EQ’s and compression and generally start to mess up the mix. Just to clarify, I’m not sitting for hours in front of my monitors and actually getting tired. It’s just working on the mix and going back to it again and again seems to wear my ears out. Anyone else have this problem?

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I found that getting up to move around while listening to the playback can help change perspective. It’s kind of a ‘break’, but it’s kind of not, since you’re listening from a distance to what you heard before and not going outside for a smoke break etc. If you’re in a small room, this may not work, but I have a space with multiple rooms and no doors or open doors so I can hear many variations of the sound as I move around the place. I discovered this by accident while going off to another room or bathroom etc.

This method not only gives your ‘head’ a change of pace, it points out what the song actually sounds like when you’re not sitting 2 feet in front of it. Low end and all freq ranges take on a new perspective, i.e. “da club”.


Absolutely! This is a very real phenomenon and I think everyone will tell you the same.
Over and over on the same thing and you can get into a “target fixation” sort of thing.
It’s hard to break once you’re in it if you stay in the mix. The good thing is that it breaks fairly easily if you can get out of the mix and listen to something else. I like sticking my head out the window and listening to birds or the wind. But almost anything will do. even a different tune or the TV.

If I feel that I have to keep on going, I try to trick myself by concentrating on a part other than what I was working on. Sometimes the issue that I was missing pops out easier when my focus is elsewhere…
I’m sure that I’ve destroyed mixes by grinding at it for way too long…
have fun


Oh hell yes. All the time.

“Forest for the trees” comes to mind. You get so familiar with what you’re hearing that you lose your objectivity. The only answer, for me anyway, is just to not be in a hurry. Rich and Stan have great ideas, get a different perspective on the listen and/or just get your head into something else for a bit. And especially after you’ve been working a mix for some hours, just stop, put it aside, go do something else, sleep on it, wait til the next day. Don’t be in a hurry to make a bad decision.

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You will get used to it,its just how mixing is

Of course, there’s also the “reference” song/mix thing, if you’re going for some specific type of sound, genre, or band/artist vibe. Switching between your mixing and and the target reference song can help switch things up and keep you focused. Especially if you’re deep in the trenches and decisions are coming slow, you may find new inspiration by listening to a similar section in your reference song. Or, just listening to any songs that you like or admire from a mixing standpoint can be a quick change of pace. And who knows, you may get a whole new insight for a different approach. I get ideas all the time about some cool technique I hear used in a song mix, that I might like to try myself. Also, you can do “Save As” and keep the work you have already accomplished (i.e. “Mix01_A”) and create another version (i.e. “Mix01_B”) to play around with just for grins and to keep things fresh. You can always drop that and go back to “A” and pick up where you left off.


Any kind of change or break helps me, also switching between monitors and headphones helps. One big thing for me is the first listen of the day after an over nite break (actually a couple of days is better). I hear things then that I don’t hear at other times and they are often important, so important that sometimes I take notes or maybe just insert markers on the go so I can go back to those points and do something different.

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^^ THIS ^^

And yes, I’ve fallen victim too. Very common. I can tell when I need to start turning up the volume on the monitors that it’s time to take a break.

Great point Ingo, the first listen on a new day is the next best thing to that very first listen. Can’t count the number of times I have heard new things under those conditions…

That’s exactly what happens to me!! I hadn’t even realized I was doing it! Great advice from people who go through the same thing - I’m not alone!


I think that’s called the “focusing illusion”. It happens to all of us in all walks of life. Whatever is in front of our face seems like the most important thing in the Universe in that moment. When we can step back, we get some perspective. For instance, if you pause to contemplate that our solar system is flying through space and revolving around the center of our galaxy at something like 12 million miles per second (Dave may correct me on this …), and that our planet is one speck in a galaxy of 100 billion stars with probably many planets circling them, and that there may be 100 billion galaxies in our known Universe, and that there may be infinite parallel Universes to our own, well, one song mix doesn’t seem like the end of the world. :relieved:


You think I can use this in my day job when I mess stuff up?


I don’t see why not. If that doesn’t work, you can point out that we have a President-elect who is flouting the “one-China policy” and global trade whilst inviting trans-Pacific war, who plans to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem setting of a Middle East war, who says he will build a border wall with Mexico and set tariffs at 35% against Mexican imports setting off a North American trade war, going head to head with North Korea in an ultimatum, while making nice with Russia’s plans for global domination. Now, assuming Trump doesn’t get us all blown to smithereens, I think you can negotiate with your employer that taking a “few risks” is necessary to carry out essential job functions.


@Stan_Halen Stan, I hope you go listen to my latest tune, Head In The Sand… we are so totally on the same page.

But the Solar System’s velocity about the galactic center isn’t nearly that high, only about 140 miles (230km) per second, and it takes between 220 and 250 million years for the Solar System to make one trip around the galactic core, it is estimated. By that measure, the Solar System is about halfway through its 20th “year”. In another hundred million Earth years, when the SS turns 21, look out! Major bender I reckon. :nerd:

Back on-topic, I re-read Andrew’s “Cloth ears to gold” article yesterday, which is now posted here on the Articles page. @madpsychot Mad, you should check that out, although it’s not about fatigue per se, the concepts are still applicable and right in line with what Stan says about how things front and center monopolize our attention. :dart:

I saw that, I’ll have to re-read it also. I noticed that on the Articles they don’t have anywhere to show the name/identity of the author, but I did recognize that as Andrew’s. I don’t know who wrote the Distortion article though …

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Ear fatigue is real. I usually work on mixes in the evening at at low volumes or headphones and even so, after a while, it’s hard to be totally objective, even though I get some breaks.
What I usually do after an evening session is print the mix, then the next day I can listen to it on various speakers/headphones and this is where I hear how bad I mangled everything :laughing:
At this stage, I take notes and address that during the next session… rinse and repeat until I don’t get that nauseous feeling the next day listening to the mess I did…


At the moment I’m up to episode 10 of the UBK Funtime Happy Hour podcast. I’m finding those guys are great to listen to. Although I can’t afford to go analogue like UBK does, their advice is often simple and to the point. Coincidentally they talked about this issue in this episode after a listener asked the question “at what point do you stop trusting your ears”. UBK said he always trusts his ears, but not his brain. He said at the point where he starts questioning whether an EQ change is good or bad without being able to answer it, he’s done mixing for that time. He then goes to a different space with completely different sounds and reverbs to “reset” his brain. I thought that would be the equivalent of stopping playing your instrument when you can feel the muscles have had enough.

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Im not a noob so im not sure if i can chime in here or not but…

I find ear fatigue is less about my ears actually getting tired and more about me being frustrated with mixing.

If im mixing something and it’s something inspiring and its just all coming together, I can mix all day. But, if I’m mixing something that I don’t like how they played the instruments or the amp or the mix is just not coming together I get fatigued very quickly.

Just my .02


This is rare for me, if you can believe that. I work approximately 12, 14, 16 hours a day in my studio. I only take breaks to post on forums here and there and haven’t experienced any ear fatigue in probably 14 years. The reason being? I don’t listen to entire mixes over and over for hours, days weeks because I thankfully don’t have to. I don’t sit there and wonder what may be wrong. I listen, hear what is going on, take notes, work in sections and before you know it, even a complex mix is done in about 4-6 hours. My volumes fluctuate but I’m usually between 70-80 db on average.

Now, the big answer besides the above is, my room is tuned, my monitors and subs are corrected for flat response, and there is no second guessing what I hear as well as the decisions I make. I’m not a great engineer, but I AM an experienced one. I have good gear and what it throws back at me allows me to make instant decisions on what needs to be done. I don’t fight with bass, I can instantly hear frequency masking, I don’t have battles with myself on what to adjust, I do not need to call on friends or other studios to get their take, (though in certain circumstances I have asked colleagues their opinion on how they may have handled something.) and I don’t need to make 20 cds to bring out to my car to hear how it sounds there.

If you are struggling with any of the above issues, it’s most likely a gear or listening environment issue. Trust me on this. When you have the right gear, when you listen to pro mixes, your mixes other people’s mixes, it’s like someone pulled the wax out of your ears that was hardening up inside your skull. All the black clouds go away…the angels sing, you see and hear birds chirping, rainbows…ok, that’s pushing it…lol…but seriously, that is exactly how it felt to me once I had everything the way it should have been. Here’s another test for you if any of you have this opportunity.

Before I updated all my stuff and really got it together, I had a friend who owned a studio. I was just using my studio as a pre production place to make noise. He would critique my mixes and would tell me to sit down and listen while writing down what was wrong. Sitting in his chair hearing this stuff changed my life. I could hear all the things I couldn’t hear at my place. So one day he tells me to bring a mix of my stuff to his place, and he let me work on it there while he coached me. At the time he was using a program called Paris Audio and I wasn’t familiar with it. So he stood by me and helped me find what I needed while assisting me, answering questions and really changing my life for the better that day.

After we were done, the results were astonishing! The mix I did there was better than anything I had ever done. At that time, I had a pair of NS10’s, no.correction, no sub and when I failed using the NS10’s, (which I always did) I’d use AKG 240 DF headphones and fail some more. So I spent some serious coin and bought all new stuff with subs to go with each set of monitors I bought. Tuned my room, corrected all my monitors, and got such good results in an instant, I officially opened my studio and have been booked solid ever since. I wasn’t a bad engineer like I had thought. I really and truly thought I sucked at this until I did that mix at my friends studio. I was skeptical buying all my new stuff, but once it was set up, tweaked and I was mixing, the only fine tuning adjustment I had to make was I was a bit bass heavy. So I turned my subs up one notch and everything was perfect as it allowed me to hear more.bass, so I used less in mixing.

At any rate, I sincerely and whole heatedly believe that you will literally listen less with the right stuff. If you already have the right stuff, it very well could be your engineering skills. Having the right gear is #1 because if you do have any basic skills, you’ll be able.to implement them and get instant results. If you are lacking in the engineering area and have the right gear, you can always learn. But attempting to learn on gear that is giving you the wrong information…that will cripple you and force you to listen double or triple what you should be. Good luck!