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I bought my first cellphone at the end of 1998. It was a state of the art product with a black and green screen, the ability to send SMS and making calls, and – are you ready? – monophonic ringtones!

I was very proud to own the gadget that cost me a few months of my salary, because only a few people could afford cellphones in those days, and not all cellphones from that era could play monophonic ringtones. Most could only beep.


Now, the ringtone technology has gone way beyond monophonic. Polyphonic is also outdated. Even cheap China-made phones used by the street fruit and vegetable sellers – who walk the damp narrow alleys of poor third-world countries – can use MP3 songs as the ringtones.

While you could buy ringtones for your cellphones if you want to, creating one feels more rewarding. As a bonus, you could show off to friends and relatives your unique ringtones that nobody else has. And if you use an iPhone, your path to being able to create one of your own ringtones is very clear.

Grabbing goods from Garageband

Maybe there are many Mac users who are not aware that they have a tool to create their own quick and unique iPhone ringtones: Garageband. This easy to use music creation software comes free with every purchase of a Mac unit as part of the iLife suite.

To create your own ringtone using the latest version of Garageband – v ’09, you just have to choose the “iPhone Ringtone” menu from the start up screen, then choose either Example Ringtone (to use and edit pre-made sample), Loops (to use and build a new one using Apple Loops) and Voice (to user your own voice as the ringtone).

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01 GarageBand - Start

The next step would be giving a name to this project and choosing the place to save it. Unless you speak music language, I suggest that you not meddle with the song adjustments (tempo, signature, and key). And actually you don’t need to because we wouldn’t deal with complicated song building anyway.

02 New Project from Template

For those who chose Example Ringtone, you’ll see the 17 second sample. Click the play button to listen to it. Should you want to use it, you could export it as a ringtone (more on this later).

The same thing applies if you choose Loops. But here you could enhance your tone by adding more loops from the loop library on the right pane.

02b Loops

Recording your own voice

Voice option will give you two pre-configured tracks: Male basic and Female basic so you don’t have to adjust anything to optimize the recording.

03 Voice

There are many other voice configurations available from the track info pane on the right.

04 Voice configuration

You’ll also have an alloted 20 second loop to use, but you could adjust this by dragging the end of the yellow loop bar to the time position that you’d like.

Actually, the one that we call the ringtone could be anything from a standard song to a spoken word. If you have a deep broadcaster voice, for example, you can just speak out your own ringtone. But Voice option is also a good place to start if you could sing (or not) and want to record a mini-choir of yourself as the ringtone. Garageband allows its users to create songs from many tracks like Voice 1, Voice 2, Voice 3 etc.

To add tracks, go to Track –> New Track menu or use Command + Option + N

05 Add new track-1

Using songs from iTunes

I personally would like to choose part of an existing song from iTunes as the ringtone. So after the main Garageband window opens, I’ll just delete the existing track (Command + Delete) and choose the Media Browser from the lower right corner of the window.

06 Adding iTunes song

Then I dragged and dropped a song from the list to the main pane.

The song was converted into Garageband track and ready to be edited.

07 GarageBand - Converting

To determine which part of the song will be converted into a ringtone, I adjusted the loop bar to the position that I prefer. This loop bar time should be 40 seconds or less.

Exporting to ringtone

To export the part of the song into the ringtone, I went to Share –> Send Ringtone to iTunes menu.

08a Share Ringtone menu

Another conversion and export process will take place and…

08b Exporting to iTunes

The ringtone will be placed under the ‘Ringtone’ folder in iTunes as a m4r file and will automatically be synchronized to iPhone the next time it connected.

09 iTunes Ringtone Folder

Non-iPhone users could also use Garageband to create their own mp3 ringtones, but that process requires a different method and enough to be written as another article for another time.

Have you tried to use Garageband to create iPhone ringtones? Share your opinions using the comments below!

  1. Allan Johnson
    February 12, 2010 at 6:16 am

    The Ringtone was added to my iPhone, but I didn't see it in the sound section of my iPhone Sounds section. The phone Sync, but no listing of the Ringtone. What did I miss?

  2. Jeff
    December 20, 2009 at 12:41 am

    great article, to bad the knuckleheads that already posted messages want you to buy something that you can do for free using garageband (at least for Mac users not sure what Windows users have for a free option)
    But for me, a great article none the less!

  3. geoff
    December 7, 2009 at 5:32 am

    Thanks for sharing this. I googled not long after I got my new iPhone and found this iPhone Ringtone Creator for Mac was widely used. It turned out to be a good way to customize my iPhone ringtones and upload ringtones to iPhone. Worth trying.

  4. Kindour
    October 9, 2009 at 1:55 am

    Just get an iPhone ringtone maker software from http://www.iphone-ringtone-creator.info to help you get custom ringtones for your iphone.

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