How-To: Create iPhone Ringtones in Garageband

If you own an iPhone and a Mac you can easily create ringtones within Garageband. I love music, but am not a music maker, so I don’t really use Garageband at all. Luckily, you don’t have to know much of anything about the program to easily create ringtones for your iPhone. Trust me. If I can do it, so can you, and I’ll show you how now.


Before proceeding, make sure the following are true: 

  • You have the latest version of iTunes (from iLife ’08) and it is currently patched. If you bought your Mac after about August of 2007 and keep your software up to date, then you’ll qualify. If you don’t have Garageband, check out this method for creating ringtones.
  • You must use music that is not inhibited by DRM. If you have iTunes Plus music from iTunes, or MP3 files from or, or of course any files you’ve ripped from your own CDs, these all qualify. 

OK, with those out of the way let’s make a ringtone…

1. Launch Garageband

If you’ve never run Garageband before, tell it you want to make a new file and just take all the defaults for that file (you don’t really use them for the ringtone anyway).
Once opened, the screen will look like the picture below. Don’t worry about the Grand Piano there, you don’t need to do anything with it. 

2. Add a song

Click the Media button in the lower-right corner.

You’ll get a slide out window with which to navigate your entire iTunes library. Just find the song you want and drag it to the main GB window. Below you can see I chose the song Take Your Medicine.

Now that the song is in place, you can click the Media button again to hide it so you have more room to work. 

3. Select a song section

First, click the Cycle Region button to turn on the cycle feature.

You will see the yellow cycle region at the very top of the screen. (The region you create is what will become the ringtone). 

Now comes the fun part. Just drag the beginning and ending points of the cycle region to correspond to where you want the ringtone to begin and end. Hit the space bar and it will repeatedly play from the start of the region to the end. Continue adjusting the start/end points until you have the sound you want. Below you can see I’ve chosen a short section from the very end of the song.

Keep in mind there is a maximum of 40 seconds that can be used for a ringtone. Most of the time you’ll pick a section that will sound good when it repeats (i.e., rings multiple times on your phone), so the 40-second limit will not be an issue. However, if you’re picking a large section and are concerned that you may be butting up against the limit, you can determine the length using the Time display by clicking the up arrow at the bottom of GB.

By default (above) the display shows Measures. But click the arrow once and the display shows Time.

With the time displayed, physically drag the play head to the beginning of the yellow cycle region, and then to the end, noting the time in each case. You can determine the duration from that.

4. Create the ringtone

This is the easiest part. Once you like the section you’ve defined, just select Send Ringtone to iTunes from the Share menu.

GB will do all the work, and even open iTunes and play your newly created masterpiece.
In iTunes, the ringtone will be named “My Song” and the artist/album will be listed as your user name; you’ll probably want to change those as you would any other iTunes song, as I’ve done here.

5. Sync your iPhone

That’s it! Once synced, you can use your new ringtone. Meanwhile, quit GB. It’ll ask if you want to save the file, say no because the file has served its purpose. 

It’s easy. No, really.

While it may have taken a while to explain this, believe me it’s really very easy stuff. Do it once and you’ll have the hang of it, and want to create a boatload of ringtones.