Turn a song on your iPhone into a ringtone

If you refuse to pay for an iPhone ringtone from the iTunes store, then why not create your own? It's easier than you think and takes mere minutes. We explain step-by-step how to turn any song you own into a ring tone on your iPhone. (Updated for iTunes 12.4)

By



  • Intro 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • Transfer the tone 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • How to make a custom iPhone text tone 15
  • More stories
Next Prev

Step 1 of 15: How to set a song as a ringtone on your iPhone

How to set a song as a ringtone on your iPhone: Summary

To turn any song into an iPhone ringtone you must edit its start- and stop times in iTunes, convert it to AAC, rename the file extension .m4r and then add it to the Tones section of iTunes.

How to set a song as a ringtone on your iPhone: Step-by-step guide

In the following workshop we'll go through the process step by step and explain exactly how to turn any song or sound into a ringtone on your iPhone.

It takes couple of minutes and it's very easy. I'll explain how to use iTunes 11 and 12 (including 12.4) to quickly and easily turn any section of a tune into your ring tone, or any other alert tone. It doesn't have to be a music track, either: you could record someone's voice and make that your ringtone. (See also: How to unlock your iPhone.)

If you don't like the idea of using iTunes and would prefer to use an app on your phone, then know this: none of those apps does what it claims. No app can access the necessary folders on the iPhone and therefore can't add a ringtone to your tones list. You still have to sync your iPhone with iTunes to get those tones to appear.

Apple hasn't made the process easy because it wants to sell you a ringtone from the iTunes Store, so it's far more labourious than it should be. But, if you're determined to turn that catchy riff into your ringtone, here's how to do it.

Although iTunes 11 and 12 is used on a Windows PC here, it's a very similar process in older versions, and on a Mac. Some of the options have been moved around, but they're still there, even in iTunes 12.4.

Next Step »

Next Prev slideshow image

How to set a song as a ringtone on your iPhone: Summary

To turn any song into an iPhone ringtone you must edit its start- and stop times in iTunes, convert it to AAC, rename the file extension .m4r and then add it to the Tones section of iTunes.

How to set a song as a ringtone on your iPhone: Step-by-step guide

In the following workshop we'll go through the process step by step and explain exactly how to turn any song or sound into a ringtone on your iPhone.

It takes couple of minutes and it's very easy. I'll explain how to use iTunes 11 and 12 (including 12.4) to quickly and easily turn any section of a tune into your ring tone, or any other alert tone. It doesn't have to be a music track, either: you could record someone's voice and make that your ringtone. (See also: How to unlock your iPhone.)

If you don't like the idea of using iTunes and would prefer to use an app on your phone, then know this: none of those apps does what it claims. No app can access the necessary folders on the iPhone and therefore can't add a ringtone to your tones list. You still have to sync your iPhone with iTunes to get those tones to appear.

Apple hasn't made the process easy because it wants to sell you a ringtone from the iTunes Store, so it's far more labourious than it should be. But, if you're determined to turn that catchy riff into your ringtone, here's how to do it.

Although iTunes 11 and 12 is used on a Windows PC here, it's a very similar process in older versions, and on a Mac. Some of the options have been moved around, but they're still there, even in iTunes 12.4.

Step 2 of 15:

Launch iTunes by double-clicking its shortcut or by finding it in the Start menu. From your library, right-click on the song you want to use as a ringtone and then select Get Info. You can import any MP3 or AAC file into iTunes, and I find it effective to use the Voice Memos app on my iPhone to record real-world sounds or people's voices to turn into ringtones.

Step 3 of 15:

Select the Options tab and then tick the Start Time and Stop Time boxes. Enter times at which you want the ringtone to start and stop. You will have to listen to the track first and note down the time you want it to start. The stop time must be within 30 seconds, as this is Apple's maximum length for a ringtone.

Top tip: If you want to be really precise about when you ringtone starts, use a decimal point. For example, if the section of music starts between 44 and 45 seconds, try entering 0:44.5 in the Start Time box. You can even specify the start and stop time in thousandths of a second, so you could type 0:44.652

Advertisement. Article continues below

Step 4 of 15:

Click OK. In versions of iTunes before 12.4, right-click on the track again, and then select Create AAC version. (If you can't see this, the fix is on the next slide.) iTunes will convert the song. It will appear as a duplicate track - you can identify it by the track length in seconds.

UPDATE: Apple has moved the option in iTunes 12.4. You now have to select the track by clicking once on it. Then go to the File menu, choose Convert, then Create AAC version. As with older versions, the newly created song will appear alongside, but will show the duration you've set so should be easy to tell apart from the original.

Step 5 of 15:

If you don't see an option to Create AAC version, it's because your CD rip settings aren't set correctly. To change this, click the menu at the very top-left corner of iTunes and choose Preferences... Then click Import Settings... next to 'When you insert a CD' and choose Import Using: AAC Encoder.

In iTunes 12.4, click the Edit menu, and choose Preferences to see these options.

Step 6 of 15:

Right-click on the song that you chose originally and then using the Options tab from the Get info menu, untick the start and stop times to return them to their original times then click OK. Otherwise, when you play that track in future, it will only play the section between your start and stop times. And you don't want that.

Advertisement. Article continues below

Step 7 of 15:

Now right-click on the short ringtone track and click Show in Windows Explorer. (This also works in iTunes 12.4.)

Step 8 of 15:

The file will be highlighted. Right-click on it and choose Rename. Now change the extension from .m4a to .m4r. Click Yes when asked if you want to change the extension.

If you can't see the .m4a extension (i.e. you just see 01 Dancing Queen and not 01 Dancing Queen.m4a), it's because Windows is set to hide the extensions. Here's how to show the extension for editing

If file extensions are hidden you cannot simply add .m4r when renaming the file. All you are doing here is changing 01 Dancing Queen.m4a to 01 Dancing Queen.m4r.m4a. This will not work!

Step 9 of 15:

Double-click the file to add it to the Tones section of your iTunes library (or add it using the 'Add file to library' menu option in iTunes).

In iTunes 12, you open the Tones section by clicking on the three dots and choosingTones from the menu.

In iTunes 12.4, you have to click on the button that says "Music", then Edit Menu... and tick the box next to Tones. Click Done, then click the Music button again and you will see the Tones section. Your brand new tone should be listed, along with any others you bought or created previously.

For iTunes 11 (and previous) users, click the drop-down arrow to select the Tones section of your library. If you don't have a Tones section at all, click the menu at the very top-left corner of iTunes and choose Preferences... and make sure the Tones box is checked. Click OK and try again.

Advertisement. Article continues below

Step 10 of 15:

Windows users: You don't need to delete the ringtone 'song' from your music library within iTunes for this to work, but you should do so as a housekeeping task. If you leave it there, it won't play, since you've already changed the filename that the 'song' linked to.

Mac users: Sometimes ringtones simply won't show up in the Tones section. There are two things to try here:

1- Delete the ringtone 'song' entry in your iTunes Music library (don't delete the actual file on your hard drive - choose to keep it when prompted). Then double-click on the .m4r file in Finder and it should show up in Tones.

2- If that doesn't work, try moving the .m4r file outside of your iTunes folder on your hard drive (such as to the desktop). Then double-click on it. At least one person found that worked and it showed up in Tones.

Step 11 of 15:

This is what you'll see when you select the Tones section in iTunes 12.4.

Step 12 of 15:

For iTunes 11 and before: Connect your iPhone to your PC and click on 'iPhone' when it appears on the right-hand side of iTunes. Click on the Tones button in the menu running across the top and make sure Sync Tones is checked. If you choose 'selected tones' rather than 'All tones' make sure you tick the tones you want to appear on your iPhone. Click Apply at the bottom to start the sync.

iTunes 12 users - go to the next slide

Advertisement. Article continues below

Step 13 of 15:

In iTunes 12, your phone - when you connect it via USB - will appear as an icon to the right of the three horizontal dots near the top-left corner. Don't click on it.

Simply select the tones you want (hold down Ctrl and then click on each in turn). They'll be highlighted in blue. Click and hold on any one and drag them over the phone icon. A list will appear on the left: just drop the tones on the device and a sync should begin.

If you have trouble making a tone appear, force a sync by clicking on the phone icon, then on the Tones section in the left-hand menu. Make sure a sync isn't already running, then tick the tones you want to transfer and click the Sync button at the bottom right of the iTunes window.

In iTunes 12.4: Your phone will appear as an icon to the right of the Tones button. You can click and drag your ringtone and, as you do so, a panel will open on the left-hand side. Simply drop the tone(s) onto your iPhone to sync them.

Step 14 of 15:

When the sync is finished, tap Settings on your iPhone, then Sounds, then Ringtone. Your custom tones will appear at the top of the list, above the default Ringtones.

Step 15 of 15: How to make a custom iPhone text tone

If you want have a custom tone for text messages, tweets, Facebook posts, new voicemails, reminder alerts or anything else, it's exactly the same process as above.

The only difference is that you'll need to select the appropriate section under SOUNDS AND VIBRATION PATTERNS on your iPhone. Tap one, say Text Tone, and you'll see the Alert Tones list.

Scroll down past these, keep scrolling and you will see your Ringtones list, at the top of which are all your custom tones.

Obviously, I wouldn't recommend using a 30-second song as a text message alert, but each to their own. And, in case you're wondering, there's no difference between a 'song' and a sound effect in iTunes, so there's no need to use part of a song as your custom alert tone. As long as you have a sound effect in a format iTunes can import (usually MP3), it treats it just like any other song. Then, repeat the same process to create and sync the sound effect to your iPhone.

Finally, did you know: you can also create custom vibrations? Here's how to set personalised vibration patterns directly on your iPhone.

Advertisement. Article continues below
Advertisement

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review: An almost flawless smartphone, almost

1995-2015: How technology has changed the world in 20 years

Ghostbusters VFX: See how Iloura brought its ghosts to (un)life

How to learn programming with Scratch on a Mac: Learn to code using MIT's interactive animation tool