Easy Ringtones with GarageBand

Written by BradzTech on Aug 17, 2014

The iPhone now has a decent selection of pre-installed ringtones, but many want to go farther with the personalization of their phone. Of course, you can buy a very wide variety of ringtones under the Tones section of the iTunes Store. Many of them are shortened versions of music tracks, however. My issue with this system: there's no reason that you must spend an extra dollar to get a ringtone of a song you already own. Some apps allow you to create a ringtone from your music, but few are both free and easy to use. However, if you have a relatively new Mac, you already have a powerful yet fairly simple way to make a ringtone: GarageBand.

GarageBand 10 IconStart by opening up GarageBand. You can find it in your Applications folder, unless you deleted it, or if you're on an outdated Mac. If you are running Mac OS 10.9 (Mavericks) or later, you have version 10 of GarageBand, which makes creating ringtones easier than ever. Otherwise, you'll need to scroll down and follow the manual tutorial.

GarageBand 10 Tutorial

  1.  You should be in the New Project Window. If not, close the open project. Select Ringtone and click Choose.
  2. In this default view,GarageBand provides you its pre-installed loops to use in your ringtone. However, we want to insert pre-existing music.
    • If your music is in iTunes, click the Media Browser button in the upper-right of GarageBand. Ensure that Audio and iTunes are selected. From there, you can quickly search your entire library using the bottom of the Media Browser.
    • If the song is not in iTunes, open the folder that contains the song in Finder. [caption id="attachment_591" align="alignright" width="350"]Where to drag a song into GarageBand Once you find the song you want, drag it into GarageBand as shown.[/caption]
  3. Drag the appropriate song directly to the right of Audio 1 and its respective controls, or the upper-left corner of the workspace. This will add the song as the sole track of the GarageBand project.
  4. Disable the metronome by toggling the purple Click button to the right of the LCD-like display at the top of the window. Optionally, change the units to time rather than beats via clicking the button to the far left of the LCD-like display and selecting Time.
  5. Now we must choose the 40 second or less portion of the song that we want as the ringtone. Simply drag the yellow loop bar along the project. You can change the length by grabbing the sides of the yellow bar. Hit the spacebar to preview the ringtone.
  6. Once you've trimmed the ringtone to your liking, you're ready to export it. Open the Share menu in the menubar, and select Ringtone to iTunes... Granted the ringtone is less than 40 seconds, it will be instantly sent to iTunes.

Enabling Tones Sync in iTunes 11That's it! You now have a fully functional iOS ringtone. Note that your ringtones won't be synced to your iOS device unless Tone syncing is enabled. Open your device in iTunes and click the button that opens the Tones screen. Ensure that Sync Tones is selected as well as the appropriate setting of your choice: All Tones or Selected Tones, and click Apply to confirm.

Ringtone Tips

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding the length of your ringtone. The hard-coded maximum is 40 seconds. However, note that by default, a phone call will cause the iPhone to ring for only 20 seconds before sending the call to voicemail. If you set a ringtone that's longer than this, it will simply stop in the middle of the ringtone. You may want to shorten your ringtone accordingly or ask your carrier to extend your ring time. FaceTime, on the other hand, rings for approximately 45 seconds before cancelling the call. Again, plan accordingly if you're a heavy FaceTime user; for example, a 22 second ringtone loops well. You can also create a text tone, a ringtone that typically does not loop and is used to signify text messages, voicemails, new emails, etc. You can use the same instructions I described above to make a text tone, but keep a few things in mind. You'll probably want to go for a ringtone of only a few seconds. Secondly, when you're working in GarageBand, you should ignore that fact that the ringtone loops, since that won't happen in practice. In addition, bear in mind text tones don't differentiate themselves from other ringtones in iTunes or on your device. You can use full-length ringtones as text tones, or vice versa. You, more likely than not, don't want your phone to ring for 40 seconds for every text you get. If your GarageBand is older than version 10, the process is similar. You may be able to figure it out based on my version 10 tutorial. Just follow the basic outline: make a new project, drag the song in, enable Loop mode and maneuver the loop so it covers the desired ringtone length, and export it to iTunes. Rename a ringtone to have a m4r extension.What if you don't have GarageBand, or you prefer another audio editing program? Don't fret. Simply create a sound clip of less than 40 seconds and export it to the AAC (m4a) format, with the file name of whatever.m4a, ensuring to add .m4a after the name. Then go to it in Finder and change the extension from m4a to m4r, by renaming the file to whatever.m4r. After double-clicking the file, it will be added to iTunes as a ringtone. Making your own ringtone has all kinds of advantages, from being able to tell whether the ringing phone is yours or not, to being able to listen to your favorite song more often. I hope that tutorial made the process easy for you, but if you have any questions, let me know in the comments.

About BradzTech

Welcome! I'm BradzTech, a Computer Science student at Rochester Institute of Technology. I am passionate about computers and analyzing the latest happenings in the rapidly developing modern field of technology, specifically, using it to help people. I share my thoughts on Twitter and, occasionally, here on my blog. Learn more about me.