1. Computer Skills

Make a Ringtone with GarageBand

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Read Time: 5 min

It's very easy to make your own iPhone ringtones with GarageBand. Those who already know their way around Apple's beginner-friendly Digital Audio Workstation will be able to breeze through this guide with a few quick glances, but for Mac users new to GarageBand, the seven steps below will guide you along the way.

Step 1: Choose A Song

Selecting A Song In iTunesSelecting A Song In iTunesSelecting A Song In iTunes
Selecting A Song In iTunes

First we need to choose a song to use as a ringtone, so browse through your iTunes library and find a song you’d like to use. I’ve chosen Manchester post-punk band, The Fall, with their cover of Victoria. Once the song is decided, we’re finished with iTunes for the time being.

Step 1 can be skipped if you're comfortable importing songs with GarageBand's media browser

Step 2: Launch GarageBand

Launching GarageBandLaunching GarageBandLaunching GarageBand
Launching GarageBand

Now launch GarageBand and you will be presented with the launch screen. Selecting "iPhone Ringtone" from the left window pane will bring up the screen shown above. Click "Example Ringtone" and "Choose".

New ProjectNew ProjectNew Project
New Project

You will now be presented with the above dialog box. Though important when creating a song from scratch, the settings can be safely ignored for our purposes. All that is needed is a title (song name with 'ringtone' added is a good choice), so leave all the other options as default and hit "Create".

Step 3: Introducing GarageBand


Depending on your version of GarageBand, you should now be presented with the above screenshot, or something similar. I am using GarageBand's latest iteration from iLife ’11, but these instructions should still suffice for older versions with some slight tweaking.

It's worth taking a few moments to familiarize ourselves with GarageBand’s basic interface. Keeping our gaze toward the bottom center of GarageBand’s window, we can see a set of self-explanatory buttons for play, pause, skip and record. Moving to the right of these, there is a timer and further right still, the "Cycle" button (which should remain highlighted), "Metronome" and "Volume Slider". Hovering the pointer over a button for a moment will present a brief explanation of its function.

Though this guide is catered toward iPhone ringtones, it should be useful for any phone which is able to accept custom ringtones

Step 4: Getting Started

Track AudioTrack AudioTrack Audio
Track Audio

Keeping our gaze in the center of GarageBand's screen, but now moving upwards, there is a track of music already inserted. This is labelled ‘Jingles’ and the blue graphic to the right of this is a visual representation of the music it contains. Click play to hear the jingle.

Now we need to free up the space currently taken by the jingle, so click on the blue graphic and choose ‘Edit’ from the menu, then ‘Delete’ to clear our track of its audio. We’ve now got a nice clean track (still called 'Jingles') ready for putting our would-be ringtone into, as shown below.

Blank TrackBlank TrackBlank Track
Blank Track

Arrange GarageBand's window so that you can see iTunes and your chosen song is selected. Click and drag the song into GarageBand’s main window, directly where the previous blue graphic was. If you miss the correct place, your song will be inserted onto a new track - if this happens, simply click and drag onto the correct one. Now would be a good time to save your progress.

Step 5: Editing Ringtone Start

GarageBand has now imported our song as you can see on the screenshot below.

Cycle Region UnchangedCycle Region UnchangedCycle Region Unchanged
Cycle Region Unchanged

You will notice a small yellow bar above the audio graphic, this is called the "Cycle Region". The Cycle Region specifies what length our ringtone will be and it can be dragged left or right to stop and start the audio where we choose, so any point in the song can be converted into a ringtone.

Cycle Region EditedCycle Region EditedCycle Region Edited
Cycle Region Edited

Victoria begins with a drummer tapping a four bar intro. That doesn't really fit with how I want my ringtone to sound, so I’ll adjust the Cycle Region with a click and drag to the right until the song begins in the right place. This may take a bit of practice at first, depending on the song choice, but as you can see above, my ringtone now begins as the music kicks in. Clicking on ‘Play’ will confirm this. Our next step is to perform the same process for our ringtone's end point.

Step 6: Editing Ringtone End

iTunes will only allow a maximum ringtone length of 40 seconds, so, staying in our main window, press play and listen for a good place to end the ringtone. When listening to the song, you will notice that the audio only plays as far as the Cycle Region bar is set, which is currently 17 seconds or so into the song. The Cycle Region should now be extended to the right, to the point at which you want the ringtone to end, making adjustments when necessary.

In this case, I have chosen to stop right at the moment before the vocalist starts singing the chorus.

Cycle Region EndCycle Region EndCycle Region End
Cycle Region End

Play the song once again and take some time trying to make the ending as smooth as possible. This may take a little while if you do not have experience editing audio.

Step 7: Exporting Your Ringtone

This is the final step.

Make sure to save in GarageBand. Then have one last listen to the ringtone. If you are happy with the beginning and end points, simply click "Send Ringtone to iTunes" - which is located on GarageBand’s menu bar, under "Share". Your ringtone should now be available in iTunes under the "Ringtones" pane - if this pane is not there for whatever reason, go into iTunes’ preferences and enable its view.


Now the above process can be repeated again with whichever songs you like. With some practice and the correct song choices, it should take only a few minutes to get each ringtone made and exported into iTunes.

All Finished!

Wasn't that easy? You should now be equipped to create tons of custom ringtones for your phone. Leave a comment below and let us know if there are any other tutorials that you'd like to see from the iLife suite.

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