How To: Creating a Custom iPhone Ringtone with GarageBand

BY Tris Hussey

Published 25 Nov 2012

I’ve never really understood why ringtones are such big business. Why not just make your own? If you have the song in iTunes (or just want to record something through the mic), Garageband, and five minutes you can make your own personalized ringtones for all your iDevices.

Getting started

First thing you need to know is that a ringtone or alert tone, at least as far as your iPhone or iPad is concerned, is just an MP3 or AAC file of a particular length that is (essentially) tagged as a ringtone in iTunes. For ringtones (like for FaceTime or calls) the ringtone can be up to 40 seconds long, for alert tones the max is 30 seconds.

For the tools part, we’re going to use GarageBand v 6.0.5 from iLife ’11. I’ll be using music from my own iTunes library for the example, but as far as GarageBand is concerned, you can use any audio clip you want to make a ringtone. In the end the only limit is your creativity.

GarageBand interface

GarageBand’s interface hasn’t changed in a long while, I think it works pretty well actually. For this project there are a few key things you’ll need to know how to get to. The screenshot below points out the key parts:

Click for larger image.

Let me show you how easy it is

I recorded making a ringtone from start to finish (with the exception of syncing my iPhone) in this screencast. I’ll outline all the steps below.

The steps

Here are the steps to follow. I’m going to assume you’re hitting “Save” as you go.

  1. Open GarageBand and create a new ringtone project. I like to start with the example ringtone just because the loop is right there and set to a good length.
  2. Click the media browser button in the lower right corner and then choose iTunes from the top menu.

  3. Browse for the song you want to make into a ringtone (if you just want to record something for your ringtone, then from the Track menu choose “New Track” and start recording)
  4. Drag the song into the gray area of GarageBand where it says “Drag Apple Loops here.” Try to get the song as close to the beginning of the other track, just so it’s easier to start editing.
  5. You can now delete the example track.
  6. Turn off the Loop button. If you don’t it will be a lot harder to listen and edit your song for your ringtone.
  7. There are lots of ways to get your song to be in the right spot for your tone. I like to use the method in the screencast which is to move the marking to the beginning of where the tone should begin (assuming it isn’t right at the beginning), split the track (Command-t or Split from the Edit menu), delete the part I don’t want, move to where I want the tone to end, split again, and delete the extra. Then I move (as you saw in the screencast) the tone to the beginning of the track. You can use the cropping tool to slide and crop the song, but if you have a lot of song to listen to (like the example), that can be tedious.

  8. Listen to the track and see if you got the cuts right.
  9. (Optional) From the Track menu you can add a Fade Out like I did in the screencast, that’s completely up to you.

  10. Turn the Looper back on.
  11. Listen to see if you got it right.
  12. From the Share Menu choose “Send Song to iTunes…”, fill in the info and click Share.

  13. Back to the Share Menu and choose “Send Ringtone to iTunes…”. Yes, this might be an extra step, but I don’t understand why Apple doesn’t make it a one-step process either.

Your ringtone is now done! All that’s left is to sync your device with iTunes and the new ringtone will be copied over. Just make sure that you have “Sync Tones” checked in the device info.

That’s all! Enjoy making your own ringtones.