A. First off, this is not a topic that can be fully explored in a simple GarageBand FAQ. It is a complex topic for which large volumes are written, and professionals spend years learning. This GarageBand FAQ entry is simply an overview of what Mastering is so that you can perhaps get a better background on the subject.
Digital Audio Mastering is:
the Post-Production work one does on a file when the recording and mixing phases are complete. Along with finalizing the order of the songs for the compilation, it is generally the time when each song is "sweetened", and all songs are brought up or down in level so that their perceived volumes are similar. These processes are performed with a variety of effect hardware or software, and in particular are generally centered around Equalization, Compression, Limiting, and Expansion... each of which is a complex topic unto itself.
If you wish to start learning about Mastering your own recordings, do some web searches on "Mastering", or "Mixing and Mastering", or perhaps "Audio Mastering". Don't expect to match the pros in a weekend (there's a reason these people can command hundreds, and some even thousands, of dollars per hour), but the more you read and practice, the closer you will get.
GarageBand '08 (And Later) now offer
a Normalize feature to increase the volume of a project, without clipping, during export. This option is available from GB's preferences under Advanced, and CAN, along with choosing the 24-bit output option, be a first step in getting a well Mastered final output.
I say "Can" because it can also work against you. If there is some, even millisecond, spike in volume, Normalize can in fact bring DOWN the volume of your final project. In this case the PeakLimiter can help resolve issues such as this so that Normalize can function as intended.
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GarageBand from Apple Computer uses audio loops and MIDI loops in Apple Loops format. It can work with Audio Units plug-ins. Apple Macintosh Compatible FireWire and USB interfaces can be used to connect Audio and MIDI instruments to your Mac, and be recorded into GarageBand.
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