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iLife Tutorial: Using the Master Track in GarageBand

GarageBand’s Master Track controls the overall level of your project, but you can insert automation and effects on it, too, just like a normal track

As a multitrack audio and MIDI workstation, GarageBand is capable of handling projects containing large numbers of tracks.
In addition to all the regular tracks, however, each project also contains a Master Track through which the audio from the entire project passes before it reaches your audio outputs. This is normally hidden, but with the exception of pan, solo and mute controls, it actually behaves just like a regular track. Any effects you insert on the Master Track will be placed across the whole song, so you can use it to compress and EQ your mix and use automation to fade your track in and out. Which brings us neatly to the subject of this tutorial. It’s unusual for commercial tracks to have a structured, abrupt ending, the norm being to fade the track out over a repeated section at the end of the song. This follows a tradition going back many years, so if you want your song to have the classic 20-second fadeout, here is how you do it.

1: Show Master Track
Load your GarageBand project and choose the ‘Show Master Track’ option from the Track menu. The Master Track should appear at the bottom of the Arrangement window.

2: Enable automation
By default, the Master Volume automation lane is already showing when the Master Track appears. You will need to click on the purple button to turn the automation feature on.

3: Set fadeout start point
If you want your song to fade out naturally at the end, you will need to start by clicking to place a control node on the curve at the point where you want the fade to begin.

4: Set fadeout end point
Click to place another node on the curve at the point where you want the fadeout on your song to end. This will be the point at which the volume reaches zero.

5: Fade down
Drag the second node down to the bottom of the lane until the value reads -144.0dB. This will create a straightforward linear fadeout between your start and end points.

6: Add more nodes
Click as many times as you like between the original start and end points to create extra nodes with which to fine-tune the shape of your fadeout curve. This should give you the perfect fadeout to your song.

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