This tutorial will walk you every step of the way through creating a ringtone from one of your MP3 files, using the free and open-source software Audacity. Audacity is an Audio Editing tool available for Windows, OS X, and Linux. Though this tutorial uses Windows for the exact steps, Linux and OS X users should be able to follow along as well.
Installing Audacity and Lame MP3 Codec
Download Audacity, for this article I will be using Windows Version 1.2.6, however there is also a new beta version 1.3.6, and a portable version that can run off of a flash drive. Next download Lame library here in order to export mp3s, for Windows, the file will be libmp3lame-win-3.97.zip Lastly, you can use whatever mp3 file you want, but if you want to follow my example I will be using a track off of Lagwagon’s newest album which is available free from their record label here it is track 4 “Memoirs and Landmines”, download the mp3 version in the first column.
Here’s a screenshot of the files you should now have if you are following along in Windows:
First, run the installer for Audacity, you can launch Audacity when it is finished, however there is another step in order to export MP3’s. The lame codec zip file contains a folder libmp3lame-win-3.97 which should have 3 files in it. Unzip this folder to the hard drive, I would suggest the Audacity folder on your hard drive which will by default be C:\Program Files\Audacity Audacity will ask for these files the first time you try to export an mp3.
Loading an MP3 and editing
Now in Audacity we can open up our MP3 for editing, this can be done by hitting CTRL + O or by selecting the File menu and selecting Open… After it imports the MP3 you should now have something similar to this on your screen:
There should be a magnifying glass icon on the far left in the top icon toolbar, click on this to select it and click on the track (blue squiggles) to zoom in. This will make editing down the music easier. You can also change the zoom in the View menu on top. You can scroll through the track using the scroll bar at the bottom of the window.
Now click on the selection tool which is the icon right above the magnifying glass that looks like a capitol I. This will be used to select what part of the song to use as a ringtone. Phones have different length and file size restrictions for ringtones. I‘ve seen unlimited down to about 20 seconds, if a long selection does not work, keep cutting down the time or changing the bit rate (This is covered in section 5). I would recommend picking out your favorite 10-20 seconds of a song, such as the chorus or opening. Click on the Green Triangle to play through the MP3 and watch for where the part you want starts and stop. There should be another green triangle (pointing down) and a line that moves along the track as it plays, you may have to change the zoom level for this step. Once you have this, select which part of the song you want to use. After you have highlighted part of the track, hitting the Play button will play only your selection. Use this to tweak exactly where to start and stop. For this example I have selected from 1.21 seconds in until 17.54 seconds in for my ringtone.
Exporting the Ringtone
Next we can export our selection as an MP3, this is done in the File menu, click on Export Selection As MP3…
You can then select where to save the MP3 and what you would like to name it; I would suggest having Ringtone somewhere in the filename so that you do not get it confused with the full song.
If this is the first time exporting an MP3, you will have to show Audacity where the Lame codec we downloaded earlier is on the hard drive. Here is the first window that pops up:
Click Yes and it should take you to a file window to find the file, I suggested placing it in C:\Program Files\Audacity\libmp3lame-3.97
Once you find it and select open it will start exporting and in a few seconds your ringtone will be made and ready to be transferred to your phone.
Getting the ringtone on the phone
Now the file should be moved to the phone via MicroSD card, USB, or Bluetooth. Selecting a ringtone on your phone varies by model, but it is usually done through Ringtone settings, or by selecting the ringtone for a contact or group of contacts. Your phone may have a special ringtone, music, or media folder where your ringtone files need to be placed.
Audacity can do a lot of different things when it comes to Audio editing, I will cover recording and some effects in detail in my next article, but here are a few that may be of use for this task:
To change the Bit Rate (quality) of the mp3 click on the Edit menu on top and select Preferences, then click on the File Formats tab. Setting the Bit Rate to a lower number, such as 56, means it will take up less space on the phone or memory card, and since it will be playing out loud on the phone speaker the quality does not need to be perfect.
If the ringtone turns out to be to soft or to loud click on the Effect menu and select the first item Amplify. Set it to a positive number to make it louder and a negative number to make it quieter, you may have to check the box next to Allow clipping when making it louder if the OK button is grayed out.
When messing around with effects don’t forget you can undo effects with Undo under the Edit menu or by hitting Ctrl + Z Some other effects you may want to play around with include Change Pitch, Change Tempo and Echo. You can also use Fade In if you want a ringtone that starts off quiet and gets louder as it goes.