Make custom iPhone ringtones, alerts with GarageBand

Create custom ringtones and alerts to use in iOS 5</a> Using GarageBand to make a ringtone (or alert tone for iOS 5) for your iOS device is easy. Best of all, it's a free way to get your custom ringtones on your device.

Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
3 min read

Tired of hearing the same old boring ringtone? We know the feeling--so we decided to make an easy-to-follow guide for making a ringtone using the music you already own. Making a ringtone on OS X is a simple process. You will just need to have have GarageBand 4.1.1+ and iTunes 7.5 or above installed on your Mac.

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To start, open GarageBand. Once it's open, select iPhone Ringtone > Loops. Then click on Choose. (You can also access the Loops category by going to New Project > Loops.)

You can name your project whatever you like. Identifying whether it's a ringtone or alert tone in the title will come in handy in the future, so it's a good idea to get into the habit now. For demonstration purposes, we will name this project "My Favorite Ringtone."

Don't worry about setting a Tempo, Signature, bpm, or Key.

Click on Create after you have named your project.

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Next you will be presented with a screen similar to the one above. Here you will need to change a few items before you  get started.

Click on the note icon along the bottom of the screen and select Time.

Make Cycle Region active by clicking on the double arrow icon along the bottom of the screen.

Switch to the Media Browser by clicking on the icon located on the far right along the bottom of the screen.

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You should then see a yellow bar across the top of the screen. That is your Cycle Region. On the right-hand side, once you select iTunes from the drop-down menu, you will see your entire iTunes music library.

Find the song you want to use to make a ringtone and drag and drop it into the area labeled "Drag Apple Loops here."

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You can adjust the position of the song by dragging it left or right. For simplicity make sure it is all the way to left, matching the start of the song with the 0:00 time marker above.

The Cycle Region, which will set the length of your ringtone, can be adjusted by moving your mouse to either end of the bar. When you see your mouse pointer turn into an arrow pointing in opposite directions, drag the bar to the desired time length. The time is measured directly above the Cycle Region bar.

A ringtone cannot be any longer than 40 seconds; however in our own unscientific testing, roughly only the first 20 seconds of the ringtone is all that is heard. Make sure the meat of your ringtone is within that first 20 seconds.

To listen to the section you currently have included in the Cycle Region, press the Space Bar on your computer. Pressing it again will stop the playback of the selection.

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As you can see, we have moved the bar to a portion of the song we like, as well as extended the time from 5 seconds to 12 seconds.

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Once you are satisfied with your selection, click on Share in the Menu Bar at the top of your screen. The second option should be Send Ringtone to iTunes. Click on that.

Let GarageBand do its magic. When it's finished, open up iTunes and select the Ringtone category.

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When viewing the Ringtones category, you will see all the ringtones you have either previously paid for or made yourself.

Next you will need to sync the tones to your iOS device. Once you have done that, go into Settings > Sounds on your iPhone to set your new tone.

The best part about these instructions is that they are the exact same instructions you would use to create alert tones. iOS 5 will allow users to set custom alerts for e-mail, SMS, and the like. Alert tones appear to have a 30-second maximum length, but that is a bit extreme. Try and keep your alert tones short and sweet.

We can promise you that after reading through this guide you'll be making your own ringtones in a matter of minutes.