How to make a song your ringtone on an iPhone

Your step-by-step guide to turning a song into a ringtone for your iPhone. It's easier than you think and takes just minutes.

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  • How to make an iphone ringtone slide 1 Intro
  • Set song ringtone iPhone Step 2 Prepare your song
  • How to make an iPhone ringtone iTunes 12 3 Choose timings
  • how to set ringtone iphone itunes 12 4 aac version Create AAC version
  • How to make an iPhone ringtone iTunes 12 2b AAC Encoder
  • How to make an iPhone ringtone iTunes 12 3 Start & stop times
  • Set song ringtone iPhone Step 6 Find the file
  • Set song ringtone iPhone Step 6b Change extension
  • How to make an iPhone ringtone iTunes 12 5 Import ringtone
  • Set song ringtone iPhone Step 7 Housekeeping
  • how to set ringtone iphone itunes 12 4 tones section New tone
  • How to make an iPhone ringtone iTunes 12 7 Sync tone
  • How to make an iPhone ringtone iTunes 12 9 Select your ringtone
  • Set song as iPhone ringtone Step 10 Custom alert tones
  • More stories
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Intro

Yes! It is possible to turn a song into a ringtone, and you can choose the exact part you want. It's free, but it does require you to use iTunes. 

Don't stop reading though. 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 'ringtone maker' apps does what it claims. Apple's restrictions mean that you still have to sync your iPhone with iTunes.

Apple hasn't made the process easy because it wants to sell you a ringtone from the iTunes store on your phone, 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.

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Next Prev How to make an iphone ringtone slide 1

Yes! It is possible to turn a song into a ringtone, and you can choose the exact part you want. It's free, but it does require you to use iTunes. 

Don't stop reading though. 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 'ringtone maker' apps does what it claims. Apple's restrictions mean that you still have to sync your iPhone with iTunes.

Apple hasn't made the process easy because it wants to sell you a ringtone from the iTunes store on your phone, 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.

Prepare your song

Before you start, the song you want to use must be in your iTunes library on your computer. It's also worth getting the latest version of iTunes, too.

If the song isn't in your library, 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.

Launch iTunes by double-clicking its shortcut or by finding it in the Start menu. From your music library, right-click on the song you want to use as a ringtone and then select Get Info.

Choose timings

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

Click OK to dismiss the window.

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Create AAC version

In versions of iTunes before 12.4 (and 12.5.1), 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 fact it lasts 30 seconds or less.

Note: Apple has moved the option in iTunes 12.4 (and later). 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.

AAC Encoder

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 (and above), click the Edit menu, and choose Preferences to see the same options.

Start & stop times

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.

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Find the file

Now right-click on the short ringtone track and click Show in Windows Explorer. (This also works in iTunes 12.4 and later.)  On a Mac, the option is called Show in Finder.

You need to do this to change the file's extension (and therefore type), which we'll do in the next step.

Change extension

The file will be highlighted in the window which opens up. 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 would achieve is changing '01 Dancing Queen.m4a' to '01 Dancing Queen.m4r.m4a'. This will not work!

Import ringtone

You need to import the ringtone to iTunes. There are several ways to do this, but I prefer to open the Tones section in iTunes and drag the .m4r file from a File Explorer / Finder window into iTunes. But you can also double-click the file in File Explorer, or use the File > Add file to library option in iTunes.

To find the Tones section do the following:

In iTunes 12.4 (and above), 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.

In iTunes 12, click on the three dots and choosing Tones from the menu.

For iTunes 11 (you really should upgrade!), 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.

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Housekeeping

Windows users: You don't need to delete the short AAC version of the song from your music library within iTunes for this to work, but you should do so as a housekeeping task since the file won't play any longer anyway.

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. 

New tone

This is what you'll see when you select the Tones section in iTunes 12.

Sync tone

In iTunes 12.4 (and above) 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.If you have problems, select all the tones you want to put on your phone and click the Sync button at the bottom right.

In previous versions of 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 problems, 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. This should also solve the problem where existing custom tones are removed from your phone when you add a new one.

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Select your ringtone

Now that the new tone is on your phone you need to set it as your ringtone.

To do this, open the Settings app on your iPhone, then tap Sounds (also called Sounds & Haptics), then Ringtone. Your custom tones will appear at the top of the list, above the default Ringtones. Just tap on one to make it your ringtone.

The fun doesn't stop there, as you can use your custom tones for other things such as text message alerts.

Custom alert tones

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 for a ringtone.

The only difference is that you'll need to select the appropriate section under 'Sounds & Haptics' on your iPhone.

Just tap on the type you want, Text Tone for example, and you'll see the Alert Tones list.

Scroll down past these, and you will see your Ringtones list. Your custom tones will again be at the top of this section.

It's not a great idea to use a 30-second song as a text message alert, though. And, in case you're wondering, there's no difference between a 'song' and a sound effect in iTunes, so you don't have to use part of a song from your music library as your custom alert tone.

All you need is a sound effect in a format iTunes can import (usually MP3), and it will be treated it just like any other song. Then, repeat the same process as for a ringtone to create and sync the sound effect to your iPhone, then select it as we've shown.

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

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