Roll My Own Ringtone

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

  1. 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. []

By Jason Coleman

Structural engineer and technical content manager Bentley Systems by day. Geeky father and husband all the rest of time.


  1. yes… For it is true… All are now cell phone car­ri­ers… I was the last of the mo-home-phones..

    Ah, a dead rotary dial lan­guage has emerged…

  2. Ah… if only I were lucky enough to have a carrier/phone that would allow me to do stuff like that…

  3. Ah… Dave, for what it’s worth, I think Jason J. held out about as long than you did. How­ev­er, Angela and I did­n’t have to force one onto him. :)

    Also, I just thought anoth­er com­ment need­ed “Ah” in it.

  4. Ah… it’s true, Dave. I held out prob­a­bly longer than you did. Damn the evil fin­gers of tech­nol­o­gy creep­ing their way into my life.

    Sure are handy lit­tle boogers som­times, though.

  5. Ah… yes, and I have to admit, I nev­er real­ly got into phone tech­nol­o­gy because so many of them are locked down and crip­pled. Imag­ine my sur­prise when I was able to pair my phone to my mac and sync all my con­tacts and cal­en­ders. Cou­ple that with being able to cre­ate and use ring­tones, I sud­den­ly got inter­est­ed in phones.

    There’s so much irony that the phone is a Sony, though. They’re not known for open plat­forms or inter­ac­tion with others.

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