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!