I’ve had my iPhone since day one. My wife and I stood in line, shelled out full price times two, and have been using them ever since. By the way, you know you have a winner of a bride if A) she’s hot and B) she’ll stand in line with you to get an iPhone. Guys, if you find one of those you better do what you can to keep her. But I digress!
In the early days Apple didn’t let you do custom ringtones and it was fraking lame. Some tools and hacks emerged to create and install ringtones and other sounds, but somewhere over the past 20 months I sort of lost interest in ringtones. Out of sight and out of mind. That is until today.
So what’s up with creating ring tones now? Â I realized that many people are still confused about it and think that you can’t do it. Well you can. It’s easy. And Apple even tells you how to do it. Here I’ve outlined the process a little better than they do and included a few tips on how to get a good ringtone.
First there are some system and software requirements. You’ll need iLife with Garage Band version 4.1.1 or later, iTunes 7.5 or later, and of course an iPhone updated to at least 1.1.2. Â All of my software is the latest versions. Â Here’s a screenshot of Garage Band with some instructional overlays. Â Click it to see a larger version:
- Drag your song file into Garage Band’s upper window to create a new track with it. This will need to be a un-protected mp3 or other sound file. Â I used the theme from the Mario Bros I downloaded from some random web site.
- Hit Apple-B to show the Master Volume Track, or you can choose Show Master Track from the Track menu.
- In the LCD-looking panel at the bottom of GB, switch the view to show time instead of measures. Ringtones are limited to 40 seconds. If you leave the display in measures it will mess you up because 40 measures is much longer than 40 seconds.
- Click the Cycle button to turn on that mode. This also makes a yellow/orange bar to appear above the timeline. Â This region is what will play when you hit the spacebar or the play button. You might want to toggle the cycle off while editing your song, but remember to turn it back on later before you save and export.
- Edit your song. This is where your skills at music editing can shine. My advice it to think about how it will begin and end. Remember that the end is also a loop point back to the beginning. Â You’re creating a ringtone, not a song. Â In actual use you normally answer your phone right away, rather than waiting so you can hear the whole song. Another thing to consider is that if you want a second between loops, that time has to be padded to the end and still has to fit into the 40 seconds. Â During this edit phase you can also fade out the end of your song if you need to. But you gotta check the Garage Band help on that one. There’s no time to teach GB in this post.
- Set the volume to be loud as possible without clipping. Most ringtones that I’ve made for the iPhone don’t seem as loud as the default ones. So crank that volume up. This can be done both in the track volume and in the master track volume. But watch that meter at the bottom and avoid getting into the red circles, which indicates a clip. Â Also, it’s important to point out that the volume slider at the bottom below the meter is only a listening volume and doesn’t effect the export. Â To make your track loud use the other two sliders.
- Adjust the cycle region by grabbing and sliding the ends of the yellow/orange bar at the top. The length of this will be the length of your ring tone. Â If you want a bit of silence in between loops you have to pad the duration. Â Once it’s set you can preview the loop by pressing play. Â While the Cycle button is turned on it will loop over this region, which is a good preview of what the ringtone will sounds like and how it will loop.
- Save As… your Garage Band project using the name that you want the ring tone to have. Â If you’re going to make more than one ring tone with a Garage Band project, Save As… for each one.
- Under the Share menu select Send Ringtone to iTunes. Â It will do it’s thing. Â Note that you can’t choose a name for the ringtone at this step. It will be called whatever your Garage Band project is called, which is why the importance of the previous step.
- Then go into iTunes and sync the ringtone to your phone.
Tips on making good ringtones
- Longer isn’t always better. Remember that if you answer your phone right away you’ll never hear the end of the tone.
- Looping is important – especially on shorter ringtones. Â Good loop points are not harsh. Fade out the end or edit the song so that it ends naturally.
- Pad the end so that the loop isn’t too tight. Add a second or 3 of silence at the end by dragging out the end point of the cycle area.
- Loud but not so loud it clips. Â Ringtones should get your attention. Â Turn it up but watch the meter. Â If all the way up isn’t loud enough you can duplicate the track to double up the sound.
- Some music works better than others. Â It’s just a cold hard fact that soft piano might not be a good ringtone. Â In the early days we made some ringtones from music like this and started missing phone calls because we didn’t hear the ring.
Sharing the ringtones you make
Um.. are you kidding? That’s probably illegal unless you own the rights to the song. Â Hello!
Once you Share > Send Ringtone to iTunes there will be a new .m4r file in your iTunes library under iTunes Music > Ringtones. Of course assuming it’s not illegal, you could give this file to another iphone user. Â As long as they also have the proper versions of software, they can double-click it to install it in iTunes and sync it to their phone also.