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How to turn any song into a ringtone with GarageBand for iOS

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There are very few iOS tasks that still require a Mac. One of those is getting your own ringtones onto your iPhone. You can buy them, but you can’t add a downloaded ringtone onto your iPhone without hooking up to iTunes. Or can you? GarageBand on iOS lets you save your own creations as ringtones, to be used immediately. Here’s how.

Your own personal ringtone

Probably the intention of ringtone export in GarageBand is to let you use your own creations as notifications, but thanks to the easy import of pretty much any audio into GarageBand, you can also use it to load third-party ringtones onto your iPhone. Today we’ll demonstrate by adding the iPhone X’s exclusive Reflection ringtone onto another iPhone.

Step one is to grab that ringtone. Actually, step one is to make sure you’re running iOS 11 and the latest version of GarageBand, because the new Files app makes it a lot easier to move audio around. Grab the ringtone from the internet, or pick another audio clip, and follow along.

GarageBand ringtone files

Next up, we create a new project in GarageBand. You’ll be asked to pick a virtual instrument, or one of GarageBand’s other sources. Choose Audio Recorder, and tap Voice. This will open a new blank audio track.

GarageBand hearts Files app

Then, switch to the Files app. I’m using an iPad, so I swipe up to reveal the Dock, and drag the Files app into the Slide Over position. From there, I find my audio clip, and drag it into GarageBand’s timeline. Just drop it into the row next to the little mic icon.

You can open up Files inside GarageBand, from the Loops section.
You can open up Files inside GarageBand, from the Loops section.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Another way to access your audio file is via the

If you already have the audio you want in your Apple Music library, you can get to that from the same spot. Just tap the Music tab at the top of the Loops window:

Import tracks direct from your music library.
Import tracks direct from your music library.
Photo: Cult of Mac

You can only import downloaded, non-protected audio files, which essentially means stuff you’ve purchased form the iTunes store.

Edit the clip

If you want to trim a full-length song down to a 30-second clip, you can just grab the ends of the song and drag them inward, as if you were trimming a video clip in Apple’s Photos app. Or you can chop out the audio you’re interested in. To split the clip, drag the playhead (the little line that moves when you play the track) to the spot where you want to cut the audio. Then, double-tap the audio clip, and pick Split from the black popover bubble. That’s not quite it — next you have to swipe down over the little scissors icon that just appeared.

Here's where you split the clip with virtual scissors.
Here’s where you split the clip with virtual scissors.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Do this at the other end of the section you want to keep. Then double-tap the leftover clips, and pick Delete from the black popover bubble.

However you slice it, you should make sure that a) your clip is 30 seconds or less, and b) you drag it to the beginning of the timeline. It should snap into place when you do so.

Exporting your clip as a ringtone

Close the song by tapping My Songs in the top left of the screen. This takes you back to the Files view. Long-press on your new song, and tap Rename. (I called mine “Reflection.”) Then long-press again, and pick Share. In the following screen, tap Ringtone, and follow along.

Guess which one we want?
Guess which one we want?
Photo: ringtone GarageBand

You can change the name if you like. Then you just assign the new ringtone as the default, as a text tone or to a specific contact, all from within this GarageBand export.

You can assign your new ringtone right away.
You can assign your new ringtone right away.
Photo: Cult of Mac

And that’s it! You’re done. You now have your own custom notification tone. Or, if you followed along with my example, you now have a ripped-off version of the iPhone X default Reflection tone. Now you can go ahead and make awesome iPhone ringtones for all your contacts in the latest GarageBand.

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