Create Ringtones From Your iTunes Library and Add Them To Your iPhone

Ringtones have been on the minds of some of my readers lately, so in this column I'm going to discuss how to go into your iTunes library, select a song, create a ringtone, and upload it to your iPhone. These instructions are for Macs running Mountain Lion and Mavericks with iTunes 11.x, and iPhones running iOS 7.

Create the Ringtone

Find the song in iTunes that you want to turn into a ringtone. For this example I’m using “Hello Darlin” by Conway Twitty. That makes a great ringtone, right? I mean, who doesn't want their phone saying "Hello Darlin" each time it rings. Much nicer than a dull ring. If anyone looks at you strangely just assume they are jealous. My personal favorite ringtone is a Willie Nelson song. If anyone looks at me strangely when my phone rings, I just say "Willie is calling."

Right-click on on your song in iTunes and select Get Info.

In the window that opens, select the Options tab.

Select the options tab

Choose the part of the song that you want to use by selecting a start time and an end time. There are limits set on the length of ringtones so stick with a maximum of 30 seconds to make sure your’s  works.

The easiest way to do this is to start your ringtone with the beginning of the song. That way you can set a start time of 0.00. If that is not what you want you just have to figure the start of the section you want to use, such as a fancy guitar riff.

One way to figure out the precise start and and end times you want is to start the song playing and watch the timer at the top of the window. When the timer gets to the point you want to select, enter that specific increment in the start time and add 30 seconds to that number.

Watch the timer to find the start and time point

Now, go back to your iTunes library and find the song you were working on. Right-click on the song that you just edited and choose Create AAC Version. [Note: if you don't see that option, set your iTunes import preferences to AAC.] This will create a new version of your song in Apple’s AAC format with the precise start and stop point your just set.

Don’t worry that you are cutting up your original song. It stays just the same. The new short version will be listed under the original version. You can pick it out because the time will show 0:30.

The second version of this tune is the one I created—you can tell because it's 30 seconds long

Now we're going to a couple of things that are less than obvious in order to turn that 30 second song into a ringtone. The first is to drag the new 30 second version from iTunes to your desktop. If iTunes doesn't automatically delete it from your music library, manually do so just to keep things clean and simple. Make sure you are deleting this new 30 second version, rather than the original!

Next, find the file you just dragged to your desktop and change the file ending from .m4a to .m4r. That's the magic step that will allow iTunes and your iPhone to see this file as a ringtone. Seems pretty simple, right? You just have to remember that this only works with AAC files. You might also want to add the word ringtone to the file name just to keep everything clean, that way when you re-add it to iTunes, you'll easily see which is which.

Next, drag the file that now ends with .m4r back into iTunes. You can drop it directly into the Tones library if you want, but even if you drag it into your main "Music" library, iTunes will recognize it as a ringtone and automatically include it in the Tones library because of the .m4r ending.

Drag the file to the tones folder

Open the Tones folder and you should see your new ringtone.

Note: before you proceed to upload the new ringtone to your phone, you should go back to the original version of the song, right-click, and open the Options tab again. You need to remove that 30 second end time you put in place or your original song won’t play through to the end. You can just uncheck the start and ending time checkboxes and then click "OK." iTunes will do the rest. 

Get It On Your iPhone

Now all you have to do is sync your ringtones to your iPhone.

Connect your iPhone to your Mac and open iTunes. Click on your iPhone and navigate to the Tones tab. Be sure to click in the box next to Sync Tones and mark the ones you want on your phone.

Tones list example

Then click on the Apply button and you should be all set. Once your iPhone finishes syncing, open your iPhone and choose  settings > sounds > Ringtone. In the listing of possible ringtones you should see the ones you just added at the top of the list. Tap the one you want to use for your main ringer and it is a done deal.

Assign The Ringtone To A Specific Individual

If you like to assign different ringtones to individuals the process has not really changed from earlier versions of iOS. Choose your phone contact list and select the individual you want. Click on the Edit option and scroll down to “Ringtone,” select your ringtone of choice, and tap the “Done” option in the upper right corner.

Take just these few steps and your phone will ring with the sound you choose