If you have an iPhone, GarageBand ($5), iOS 6 now lets you create your own ringtones using songs from your music library.
The app only works with locally-stored (i.e. non-iCloud) songs, and they can’t be ancient ones you bought from iTunes years ago that are still protected by Apple’s FairPlay DRM. My iOS 6 rundown from last week details how to determine if a song is locally downloaded.
1. Create a new song in GarageBand
Fire up the GarageBand app. Start a new song by tapping the Keyboard instrument, if that’s what you see — or by tapping the little Down arrow at the upper left of the screen, tapping the Plus sign, and choosing New Song. Then select the Keyboard instrument. (There is a “Copy from: iTunes” feature, but it won’t work for this.)
2. Switch to the Multitrack View
If you see piano keys, switch from the piano to the multitrack view by tapping the multitrack symbol just to the right of the Down arrow:
2. Import the song
First, tap the loop icon in the top right:
Then click the Music tab to bring up the music on your phone:
If you tap, you can preview the song…
… but when it’s time to make your selection, you need to press and hold the song with your finger.
3. Increase the project length
GarageBand trims your song to the first 30 seconds, but it still has knowledge of the rest of the song, and you can pick any segment for your ringtone. However, by default, your GarageBand project only has about 20 seconds of canvas to work in. Tap the tiny “+” icon in the upper right hand corner of the edit screen, and increase the number of bars to 20 (or even more, if the part of the song you want is towards the end). The edit screen now has a little more room to stretch out in.
We picked 38:
4. Trim your song
Now you should be able to see your song looking something like this:
Dragging either end of the track will trim or add seconds to either end. Your maximum time here is 30 seconds — any longer, and iOS 6 will automatically shrink the file down to 30 seconds, and it might not be the 30 seconds that you want. Move the sliders until you find the section you want to save. This might take a bit of playing around, but it’s worth getting right:
Finally, drag the audio all the way to the left, so it’s flush with the beginning of the project:
When you’re finished, tap the arrow in the very top left corner and choose My Songs to save your project return to the project list. Press and hold the “My Song” icon (representing the song you just made) until it wiggles, then tap the export icon at the upper left:
Scroll to the bottom of this screen (Apple calls this the “Share Sheet”), and tap the “Ringtone” button:
Name your ringtone:
Now that the ringtone export was successful, tap Use sound as. (Note: this is an actual file, so even if you delete the original song from your phone, you’ll keep the ringtone):
Now you can assign your new ringtone to play when you get a call, a text, or when a particular person contacts you: