How to make your own custom iPhone ringtones with GarageBand for macOS

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While Apple's tone store is stocked with a huge collection of sounds an iPhone could play for a ringtone, it is also possible to customize an iOS device with a unique ringtone of your own creation. AppleInsider explains how to get a ringtone out of a Mac's GarageBand project and into your iPhone's tone collection.

The music and sound effects that can be bought from Apple's extensive tone collection is a great resource for making an iPhone stand out or make it fit with your personality. Even so, there is always the option of making your own tones, for free, by using GarageBand to create and export the sound to your device.

While this was previously fairly simple to do, changes in iTunes means that it's not as straightforward to find your custom tones once they have been produced. This guide will go through the entire process, from creating and exporting, to finally adding it to a contact on your mobile device.

Creating a Tone

Open GarageBand on your Mac.

If you already have a composition that you wish to use, click Open an existing project and select and open the project file. You can skip to the Export the Tone section below.

If you are starting from scratch, select New project and Ringtone, followed by altering the tempo and other settings before clicking Choose.

At this point, you will have to create your ringtone, just like producing any other GarageBand track. This can range from full-blown musical productions using GarageBand's included loops, laying down new recordings with instruments, or even recording someone speaking into a microphone.

Once you have created your project, save it by selecting File then Save or Save As... in the menu. Enter a name for the new tone, select where to save it, and hit Save.

Export the Tone

Once you are happy with the tone, select Share in the menu followed by Ringtone to iTunes..., which will bring up iTunes.

If your ringtone is longer than 40 seconds in length, GarageBand will warn that it exceeds this limitation, and needs to be corrected. If you are fine with GarageBand automatically trimming the composition to the correct time, select Adjust, or select Cancel to adjust it manually.

For manual adjustment, click the Cycle button in the project window to enable a yellow bar at the top of the screen. Drag the center of the bar to reposition it in the composition to cover the period you want as a ringtone, and drag the ends to adjust how long the cycle duration lasts.

An attempt to share to iTunes again will use the period selected by the Cycle button.

Earlier versions of iTunes would bring up the Tone menus, but the current 12.7 release does not offer this option. While it isn't visible, the tone will have successfully exported, and is in the iTunes library, but findable via Finder.

Use Finder to bring up the iTunes Media Import folder. The path from the main drive is usually Users > the user's folder > Music > iTunes > iTunes Media > Import. The file in that folder will be the finished ringtone in the .m4r file format.

Importing the Tone

Connect your iOS device to your Mac. While this can be done with a Lightning to USB cable, it is also possible to do this if Sync with this device over Wi-Fi is enabled.

Click the device icon near the top left of the iTunes menu to bring up the iPhone. Under the left panel's "On My Device" section, select Tones, and drag the created tone file to the tone list. This will import the tone into the device's tone library, and make it ready for use.

Setting the Tone

At this point, you can see the tone in question in the iPhone's Settings app, under Sounds then Ringtone. Select the new ringtone to make it the default for the device.

If you want to set it as a custom tone for a specific contact, allowing users to know who is calling before seeing the phone's display, this can also be done.

Select the contact you wish to apply the tone to within the Contacts app, and select Edit. Scroll down to Ringtone and tap the existing tone. Scroll through the ringtone list to find the new entry, and select it.

More Notes

It is advised that readers do not import music tracks they do not have permission or the rights to use for their own ringtones, for copyright-related legal reasons. Also remember that you can send the exported ringtone file to more than one device, and also to others to use on their own iPhones.

It is also possible to create a ringtone using GarageBand for iOS, then set it as the iPhone or iPad's tone. AppleInsider has also created a guide to producing tones in this way.