Creating iPhone Ringtones in Windows 7 with Audacity

One of the things I really appreciate about OS X is the ease of accomplishing a great number of tasks, either through the operating system, or elegantly crafted third party apps. For example, creating iPhone ringtones for in OS X is easy breezy using Rogue Amoeba’s Fission app.

After going back to Windows 7 about a year ago, I recently worked out an easy method of creating iPhone ringtones in Windows by dragging and dropping tracks from iTunes into the open source sound editing application Audacity, and saving the edited files to the iTunes auto import folder.

These instructions will assume you are comfortable, or can become so, working with sound editing applications.

Once you’ve downloaded and installed Audacity, you’ll need to install the FFmpeg Import/Export library  (I’m recommending going through the following steps so you can grab the most recent version of FFmpeg):

  1. In Audacity, select Edit – Preferences.
  2. Select Libraries, and then click the “Download” button for FFmpeg Library. The download button will take you to a FAQ page. The link you’re looking for is item 1 under the Windows section. Click that download page link, and on the resulting download page, you’re looking for “FFmpeg Binary compatible with Audacity 1.3.13…”
  3. After downloading, install FFmpeg. Once installed, go back to Audacity, and click the “Locate…” button. (In case you need to reopen, Edit – Preferences – Libraries.) In my case, it was able to locate the FFmpeg dll automagically.

Now that Audacity and FFmpeg are installed, you’re ready to create ringtones. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Open Audacity and iTunes. I find it works best to arrange the open windows side by side.
  2. Select the song in iTunes, dragging and dropping it into the Audacity workspace.
  3. Once the file’s been converted (if required) in Audacity, select “Tracks – Stereo Track to Mono.”
  4. I generally like to use the intro of a song for my ringtones, so I’ll select from 35 seconds into the song to the end, and “cut” that selection. (Ringtones should be 30 seconds or less. There are second counters above the waveform window.)  As an alternative, you can select the portion you want to use, plus a few extra seconds on each side, and select “trim.”
  5. Select “Fit Project,” so you can see the full waveform you have left.
  6. If using the first 30 seconds or so of the track, highlight the first few seconds, zoom in, and cut the silence. Fit the whole wave form in the window.
  7. Continue to select and cut (or trim), to selecting only the portion needed for the ringtone. If I think it’s needed, I’ll use fade in, or fade out effects (“Effect” menu).
  8. Once the ringtone is perfect, or satisfactory, or even just good enough, select “File – Export”
  9. Set “Save as type” to “M4A (AAC) Fles (FFmpeg)”
  10. Navigate to the “Automatically Add to iTunes” folder. In my case, this is located at “C:\Users\jelyon\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\Automatically Add to iTunes\”
  11. In “File name:”, name the file something like: “RT Another Life.m4r” Yes – use quotes, so Windows gives it the “m4r” ringtone file extension.
  12. Make any desired changes to the Track Title in the resulting “Edit Metadata” box and choose OK. I usually highlight the file name in step 11, and paste that into Title Track. Don’t bother with any of the other fields – those changes don’t seem to make it into iTunes.
  13. If iTunes is already running, it will import your new ringtone. If not, it will get imported the next time you launch iTunes.

For extra credit, you can use the multitrack feature of Audacity to mix two different tracks, or the beginning and end of the same track, to create a ringtone. For example, I used the first 14 seconds and last 9 seconds of the Pat Metheny track “Ozark” to create a pleasant (IMO) ringtone. In this case, I used the “gain” slider (under the mute/solo buttons in the box to the right of the waveform) to more closely match the loudness of the last 9 seconds to the first 14.

Happy Ringtoning!

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