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Creating ringtones with GarageBand

Christopher Breen | Jan. 10, 2014
When introducing you to GarageBand in our last lesson, I claimed that nonmusicians could find uses for Apple's audio and music application. I can hardly blame some of you for responding with a hearty "Prove it, buddy." And so I shall, by outlining how to craft a ringtone from one of your favorite tunes.

When introducing you to GarageBand in our last lesson, I claimed that nonmusicians could find uses for Apple's audio and music application. I can hardly blame some of you for responding with a hearty "Prove it, buddy." And so I shall, by outlining how to craft a ringtone from one of your favorite tunes.

Choosing a track
Launch GarageBand. In the Project chooser select Ringtone and click the Choose button. The main GarageBand window will open. Inside you'll find a single track called Audio 1. The Cycle button will be engaged, and the ruler will bear a yellow bar that stretches for 20 measures. (That yellow color denotes the length of the cycled section.) To the right, the Loops pane appears by default.

In the display (which currently shows bars, beats, divisions, and ticks), click the Note/Metronome icon and choose Time from the pop-up menu. Then drag on the right side of the yellow cycle bar so that it ends at 0:40. You do this because you can make ringtones no longer than 40 seconds; creating a cycle bar of that length shows you how much audio you have to work with.

In the control bar click the Media Browser button (the last button in the control bar). In the top portion of the resulting pane, select iTunes. GarageBand will set about loading a list of your iTunes library's playlists, and will display the contents of a selected playlist in the bottom half of the Media Browser pane.

You can sort the resulting list by track name, artist, or time by clicking the appropriate column heading. You can also narrow the list by using the Search field at the bottom of the pane, where you can search by All, Artist, Album, Composer, or Song. To preview a track, just select it and then click the Play button that appears to the left of the Search field (or double-click the track). When you've found the correct track, drag it from the list to the workspace, to the right of Audio 1. The resulting track is brown with a white waveform.

Click Play in the control bar, and you'll hear the track. (If you additionally hear a ticking sound, click the purple Metronome button to turn it off.)

Editing the track
If all you want to do is use the first 40 seconds of the track as a ringtone, you're close to being done. You can simply split the track and delete everything after the first 40 seconds. The resulting ringtone, however, may not contain the part of the song that you really want to hear. And even if it does, when it loops on your phone (because these ringtones keep "ringing" until you answer or the call goes to voicemail) it may do so at a musically awkward place.

 

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