Ringtone Practice and Theory based on iPhone

Making ringtones for iPhone is easy. No need for a fancy program or buying it from a commercial source. You can make a unique sound for each caller.

An iPhone ringtone is just a standard iTunes song format changed to an .m4r extension. Here are the steps.

Create/ edit sound.
Save as Mp4 or ACC
Change extension to .m4r
Select the ringtone files tab in iTunes
Drop file in iTunes ringtone section.
Sync phone making sure Ringtones is selected for sync.
2. (alternate method) create a .wav file.  drop in Itunes, select it, choose Create ACC, move both the .wav and .acc file out of itunes.
  1. Create/ edit sound.
  2. Save as mp4*
  3. Change the mp4 file extension to .m4r
  4. Select the ringtone iTunes files tab
  5. Drop .m4r file in iTunes ringtone section
  6. Sync phone making sure ringtones is selected for sync
  7. On phone got to settings to assign as default, or to contacts to assign to a person.

*Step 2 expands if you are editing .wav file.s Here is the method to create mp4 (ACC) format from .wav files.

  • create a .wav file in Soundedit, or any sound program.
  • drop in Itunes
  • right click it and choose choose Create ACC Version
  • copy out the .acc file from iTunes
  • delete both the .wav and .acc file appearing in iTunes
  • continue with step 3.

Theory of Ringtones

A unique ringtone is your ring tone, and in a room of ringing phones, you know for sure when it is your call. In fact you can tell who is calling, if you have that tone assigned to a person in your contact book. Making a set of personal ringtones that are in a family is even better. I email my personal ringtone to my friends so they can assign it to me.

Which makes a good ringtone? That loud boom-box phoney who strolls down the hall annoying everyone, screeching acid music or a voicetone saying “Jim, this is Steve, I want to talk to you”. These are the Darwinian dead ends of call tone culture. Music itself is often offensive to someone. Some people love country, others hate it. Some love rock, others hate that. But clearly it says to the world you are a fan of one particular tribe. Ok, but is it really you? And might you better be served by an abstract tone?

Generally it is good to stay abstract and somewhat musical aiming for “bell perfection” – the original hailing tone of ancient telephones. Let’s look at the original bell, once cliche, now an archetype.

Bells and Cells

It is hard to beat the bell. That sound is instinctively recognized, and when you hear it, you know what to do. However that same sound comes from anyone’s phone.  How many times have you been in a room when a ringer goes off and everyone is turning to answer their phone? Avoid this by getting personal. You want a bell, but different. Apple launched iPhone with the percussive Marimba. The sound is brief, the short beats warrant attention.  But it could come from anyone with an iPhone.

A percussive-oriented sound is good. The best ones are original, made from scratch. The second best are “obscure” samples that you edit, and even modify.

Let’s look a little closer at the principles of the bell sound.

Ringing 101

The original phone had a metal bell with an electric ringer. Over years of repetition of the same bell construction, the tone is identical everywhere. Millions of people are used to hearing and practiced at picking up the instrument. The pickup cancels the bell and opens the circuit for conversation with the caller at the other end of this phone.  But the actual tonal of an “alarming” pattern of percussive sound, silence, and its repetition is what people are used to.

In the era of the computer any digital sound is possible to shape any tone and assign this so a specific calling device. Personal sounds are an interesting subject. You could not do this on the old phone system with a single bell. On a cellular system the ringtone designates the caller.

For a mobile cell phone, the ringtone should be relatively short. When the call tone cycles back to itself, the end should fit with the beginning.  The tone should be able to be heard in a room of people, so the tone should be of higher pitch than the spoken voice. Low tones and low volumes on a cell phone are almost impossible to hear. Better tones are percussive and have an alerting function. Using a sound editor you are likely to raise the volume and use an audio compressor.

– to be continued

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