The Art of the Ringtone

Although modern smart phones can play a wide variety of musical and audio files as ringtones, very few work well. Popular songs are great for entertainment but aren’t written as attention getters from inside your pants pocket. Ever since the iPhone debuted, I’ve been using Marimba as my ringtone. Not because I’m a technophobe who doesn’t enjoy customizing his phone, but because nothing I tried managed to catch my attention like Apple’s default setting.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a brainstorm to ask friend and one of the composers behind Ramp Champ, Mike Weiser, to create a custom ringtone for me based on Marimba. I asked him to take the main theme from one of my favorite films and “Marimba-ize” it, with the following awesome results:

Please don’t ask me to post the Marimba-TRON ringtone. It’s based off music by Wendy Carlos written for the Disney movie and I had it made for my personal use. The last thing I’d want is to get myself or Mike in any trouble by re-distributing it. If you’d like your own custom designed ringtone, be sure to head on over to Mike’s website and learn all about the music-based services he provides, which now includes ringtones. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to go watch that TRON Legacy trailer for like the 50 billionth time. Is it December yet??


  1. That is an awesome ringtone and the site by Mike Wieser is an insta-bookmark, thank you for sharing it.

    I’ve run into the same problems you have, but didn’t have the resources you do — namely an awesome artist as a friend — but I found out what works for me:

    I only use (portions of) songs I love, that feature a relatively high pitch and/or a staccato.
    Among those are:
    ‘Journey to the Cave’ — Harry Potter 6 OST
    ‘The Rescue’ — from the album ‘Immortal Verses’ by Submersed
    The ‘IT Crowd’ theme song
    ‘The Minstrel Boy’, a scottish bagpipe song (can be found on Macenstein)

  2. It’s amazing that there aren’t more high quality ringtones. I would pay a reasonable amount for ones that I liked. So much junk out there now.

    In a lot of ways, sonic design in software is a lost art, with the exception to the rule being games from some studios, but not all. People design visual experiences, with sound often being an afterthought. We’ve dabbled a little in adding sounds that makes sense, including a decent but not great push notification sound, but it would be a hard sell for me to the powers that be to spend as much time on sound design as we do on visual design.

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