First of all, I really don’t go in for .mp3 ring tones. I’m actually okay with just having a beepy or ringy ringtone on my phone. However, custom ringtones do serve a useful purpose. Now that essentially everyone1 carries a cell phone with them, knowing that it is actually your phone ringing is handy. Of course, you don’t need to have “The Macarana” blaring every time your wife calls. That’s annoying (for several reasons). So, all this being said, it’s a good idea to know how to make your own ringtones. Ringtones are multi-billion dollar business, and it’s no wonder when you consider the numbers. I can purchase the latest hit at the iTunes for 99¢ but that same song, in a shorter, lower quality ringtone will cost me $1.99 at Cingular (plus whatever amount of bandwidth it costs me to download it). I pay twice as much for less? I don’t think so.
Here’s what I use to do this:
- A song. More to the point, one in .wav format. You can rip one off a CD you own or burn-and-re-rip a song you’ve bought off of iTunes (or whatever music service), which I do usually to remove the DRM. Just re-rip it into .wav this time instead of .mp3.
- Some sound editing software. I like Audacity because it’s open source and pretty easy to use. You’ll need to get the LAME .mp3 encoder for it, but that’s not too much trouble and also free.
- About five minutes. Open your tune into your wave editor software (Audacity) and trim it down to size. I use about 30 seconds, and not necessarily the first 30 seconds, either (I want the meat of the song, not the artsy intro). I also use a brief fade-in at the beginning to save my hearing as well as some fade-out at the end, although who ever hears the end of a 30 second ring-tone?
- Save the new version as a low-to-medium quality .mp3 file, probably 42kbps (where-as I’d usually use at least 192kbps for an .mp3 file on my PC). The key is, the file needs to be less than 600kb in final size, at least on my Cingular branded Sony-Ericsson W810i (I’ve yet to test Angela’s Motorola SLVR). However, 30 seconds at 42kpbs should come well under that size.
- Transfer the .mp3 to the phone, by USB if at all possible as anything else is excruciatingly slow (i.e. – Bluetooth). I found that I had to put mine in a specific folder called “Ringtones.” This may not be always the case, but it worked and I’m not sure that I’d want to mix this low quality, clipped songs with full-length .mp3 I’d listen to on my headphones, so it’s a good idea to separate them.
- Use the ringtone. Call yourself and test it out. You just saved a couple of bucks and exercised your fair-use rights. Heck, splurge: call yourself and talk for a while. You can afford the minutes.
Right now, I have “Love Me Do” by the Beatles for when Angela calls (yeah, cheesey). It works great, though, and I didn’t have to pay for the same song twice. I suppose technically if she calls while I’m listening to that song then I’ve gone beyond fair use and am guilty of copyright infringement. However, that’s pretty unlikey. Just in case, I’ll put my phone on silent when listening to my copy of One.
- now that my brother Dave has given up his landline in favor of a mobile-only, I feel confident that everyone is not just hyperbole. [↩]