How to Record your Own Custom Ringtones

This detailed and step by step guide will show you how to record your own, custom ringtones to use on your iPhone or smartphone.

Previously we covered making your own ringtones from MP3s in a step by step guide, but for a truly unique ringtone, you can use the completely free audio editor Audacity to record your own homemade ringtones. Since your phone allows each contact to have its own ringtone, you can have your kids or friends record their own special ringtone for you and you’ll know who’s calling without looking at your phone.

Download and Install Audacity

First up, download Audacity and install it (if it’s not already installed on your computer). The installation process is simple – you’ll mostly just click ‘Next’ a bunch of times. Although this guide uses Windows for the screenshots, the steps will be virtually identical if you’re using Audacity in macOS or Linux.

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Record the Ringtone

  1. Make sure you have a microphone plugged in; the jack for microphones is usually coloured pink and are often located on the back of the computer by where the speakers are plugged in. There may also be a Mic input on the front of the computer, or on the side if you’re using a laptop. When you start up Audacity, it should have a new file open for you; all you need to do is hit the red circle button in the top toolbar to start recording and the yellow square to stop. You can of course use the phone itself to record your ringtone, and then transfer the file to your computer and open it in Audacity to edit.
  2. Next press play (the green triangle icon) to listen to your recording. If you do not like it you can click on the X in the top left corner of the track to delete it and start over.

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  4. You may also want to adjust the Microphone level in Audacity or your sound settings after your first recording, I’ve recorded a few below to illustrate what too loud and too soft looks like.

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  6. The next step you may need to take is editing down your ringtone if you have silence at the beginning and/or end, which will look like flat lines in the audio track. Make sure the selection tool is on; the capitol “I” Icon in the top left below file should be grayed (if not click on it). Next, select the parts of the track you want. If you hit play with part of the track selected, it will only play that part.

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Saving the Ringtone as an MP3

  1. I will go through some of the Effect menu in section 5, but if you are satisfied with your selection and ringtone now you can save it. Click File and select Export Selection as MP3
  2. You can then select where to save the MP3 and what you would like to name it, don’t forget to put which person the ringtone is for.

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  4. The next screen that may pop up is Edit the ID3 Tags, you can enter a title if you want but this is optional, hit the OK button.
  5. 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:

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  7. 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

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  9. 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.

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Transferring the Ringtone to Your 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.

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The Audacity Effects Menu

  1. 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.
  2. When messing around with effects don’t forget you can undo effects with Undo under the Edit menu or by hitting Ctrl + Z.
  3. The next to effects to be discussed are Change Pitch and Change Speed these can be used together to make some very funny ringtones.
  4. Change Pitch will make the voice sound lower if you enter a negative number or higher for positive numbers, you can enter a number for either Semitones (Halfsteps): or Percent Change, there is also a slider underneath Percent Change you can move left or right.

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  6. You can hear how it will sound with the preview button in the lower left corner of the Change Pitch window, the larger the percentage change the greater the effect will be.
  7. The Change Speed effect works similarly to speed up or slow down your track, under this menu you can enter a number for Percentage Change or use the slider located right underneath it, this effect also has a preview button.
  8. As you may notice, changing the Speed will also change the pitch, so if you want to sound normal but talk really fast or slow, change the speed and then change the pitch in the opposite direction. Here is a short table that lists what to do:
  9. Note: There is also a Change Tempo effect to do fast or slow talking but I found this will distort voice recordings.

  10. The Echo effect can be fun to play around with, the Delay Time is how long the echo takes to start and the Decay Factor is how strong it is (keep this under 1, otherwise they will get louder).
  11. Reverse will make give you backwards-talking ringtones, if you have the time you can try recording yourself talking backwards and then reverse it. To get a preview of what to say, record it normal and reverse it (you may want to space your words and lower the speed). Once you have it memorized, record saying it backwards.
  12. You can also distort your ringtone with the Wahwah effect, there are a lot of sliders to play around with on this one, so try be sure to use the preview to see how any change affects your ringtone.

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Advanced Ringtone Recording Options

If you record a lot of ringtones and your phone doesn’t have a lot of storage, you can make them a bit smaller by changing the Bit Rate. 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.

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You can also do more advanced editing and have multiple tracks in Audacity. I felt it was a bit too much to cover here but they are not extremely difficult to figure out and there is also plenty of documentation on the Audacity website.

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