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Using GarageBand, you can create a custom ringtone out of any portion of any track you have in iTunes. This article will walk you through the process of making a custom ringtone and syncing it to your iOS devices, as well as assigning it to a certain contact or as your default ringtone.

Purchase the Song
If you don’t already own the song you’d like to create the ringtone from, you’ll need to purchase it from a service like iTunes or Amazon.com.

Create a Ringtone Project in GarageBand
Open GarageBand on a Mac and choose “iPhone Ringtone” on the left. Choose “Example Ringtone” as the type of ringtone project and click the “Choose” button on the bottom right.  Type the name of the song that you are making a ringtone from in the “Save As” field, and click “Create” on the bottom right. In the timeline, there will be a sample track called “Pastel Slide Medium.” Click on that track to select it and delete it with the Delete key on the keyboard.

Drag the Song into the Timeline and Customize it
At the bottom right corner of GarageBand there is a media icon with musical notes. Click on it to see the contents of your iTunes library. If necessary, use the search tool at the bottom to locate the song. Drag the song you want to use into the timeline.

The bright yellow line at the top of the timeline is called the Cycle Region, which represents the portion of the song that will be used to create the ringtone. Press the spacebar to play (and pause) the Cycle Region of the track, so you can hear the part that will become the ringtone. If necessary, drag the Cycle Region to a different part of the track to use that part instead of the beginning of the song. Also, the cycle region can be shortened or lengthened if necessary by dragging the edges. The maximum length of an iTunes ringtone is 40 seconds.

Export the Ringtone out of GarageBand into iTunes
Once you’ve adjusted the Cycle Region to be the portion of the song you want, click “Share” on the menu bar and choose “Send Ringtone to iTunes.” If you adjusted the Cycle Region to be more than 40 seconds, GarageBand will warn you in this step. If that happens click Cancel and shorten the Cycle Region.

Sync the Ringtone to your iOS Device
Now that the ringtone you created is in iTunes, connect your iOS device to your Mac. Open iTunes and click on your iOS device at the top right (or in the left sidebar depending on which iTunes layout you use). Click on “Tones” at the top center, and check both “Sync Tones” and “All tones.” Then click the Apply button at the bottom right. Wait until the sync process is complete, and click on the eject symbol next to your iOS device. At this point, the ringtone you created is on your iOS device and is ready for use.

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Activate the Ringtone in Settings on an iOS device
On your iOS device, you can make your custom ringtone the default ringtone for all incoming calls, or assign it to specific contacts so that it only plays when they call. To assign it as the default ringtone, access Settings > Sounds > Ringtone.  You will see your custom ringtone(s) listed at the top under Ringtones. Tap the one you want as the default, it will play so you can confirm it sounds the way you expected.

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To assign a custom ringtone to a specific person, open the Contacts app. Tap the contact you want to assign the custom ringtone to, and then tap Edit at the top right. Tap Ringtone, and choose the custom ringtone from the list. Tap Done at the top right to finish choosing the ringtone, and tap Done at the top right again to finish editing the contact. You will see the ringtone you assigned displayed on their contact card.

Using custom ringtones for individual contacts customizes your iOS device in a way that adds personality. The ability to easily determine who is calling based on the ringtone can be especially helpful if you have any kind of vision problem, and can also increase privacy and efficiency.

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15 Responses to “How-to: Create customized ringtones for your iOS devices using GarageBand for Mac”

  1. rettun1 says:

    Or you could do it all right on the phone. I’ve done it dozens of times, very easy.

  2. Why not just do it from within iTunes like i always do? many less steps. Plus you don’t need clunky GarageBand on your computer.

    In iTunes, right click the song you want, select “Get Info” and adjust the start and end times of the track in “options.” (make sure it’s no longer than 35 seconds or so) Hit ok, then right click song and hit “Create AAC version.” Go into the folder that the song/ringtone is in and change the new file name from .m4a to .m4r …. Finally, make sure you remove the new AAC version of your song from your iTunes list of songs, then drag and drop the newly named file into iTunes.

    Takes about 1 minute or less once you get the hang of it.

  3. lycius84 says:

    Don’t own a Mac. But this is fairly easy on a PC with just iTunes. Is roughly the same without the UI and having to manually convert in iTunes and then changing the extension from m4a to m4r.

  4. How do you do it on iphone? With garage band? I never tried….
    it would beinteresting for you guys to write a bit on multiple iphone ipads playing synced garageband songs….

    • rettun1 says:

      Open a new project in GarageBand for iPhone. Click the ‘loop’ symbol in the upper right and hit ‘Music’.

      Drag the song that you want onto the timeline and position it so that the part you want as a ringtone is at the starting point.

      Then go back to view all your projects, hit ‘select’ and highlight which you want to make a ringtone.

      Finally, tap the share button in the upper right and name your ringtone. Hope this helped!

  5. techfreak23 says:

    You can very easily do this in iTunes directly…

  6. Nice to have options. Good article.

  7. macmaniman says:

    search ringtone on the mac App Store plenty of options

  8. There is a free app in the Mac App store called Ringer which does the same thing for those people with out Garage Band. I find it much simpler as well.

  9. You can making speaking ringtones using the names in your contacts and combine them into custom sentences using this app.

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/speaking-ringtone-maker/id680254158

  10. There is a much easier method without iTunes or computer at all, follow this video tutorial: http://youtu.be/iL86_Jb7vxk