For Your Consideration…a Funky Twilight Zone Ringtone

I haven’t blogged about anything music-related since November of 2012. That’s criminal. Especially considering the last one was a lazy post with several different examples of teachers parodying Rebecca Black’s “Friday”. No I will not link to it, you can go search for it if you like. I’m going to pretend as though I never hit the “publish” button on that post.

I feel as though I may have made up for it with this post; a special assignment from deep within the DS106 Audio Archives entitled “Make Your Own Ringtone“. Considering this is the summer of the DS106Zone, I decided to add a Twilight Zone twist to this audio assignment, creating a funky fresh, beat-heavy ringtone based on the iconic opening bar of the Twilight Zone theme song. It’s guaranteed to grate on your ears like a piece of broken chalk down a slate chalkboard. You can hop over to SoundCloud and listen to my Twilight Zone ringtone, or listen through the embedded player below.

This was a ridiculously fun little piece of work, made easy thanks to Garageband. I fired up a new ringtone project, and it provided me with a few examples of some pre-arranged loops. Better than that, this “starter” ringtone project came with a 13 bar looping playback, adjustable as you added or took away sound loops, and plenty of options for manipulating it. I choose to delete all of the loops in the example ringtone and start from scratch, using the opening measure of the Twilight Zone theme song as the base.

I snagged the Twlight Zone theme from Youtube using Keepvid’s cousin-site, SnipMP3. For those immediately raising alarm bells of “Ben, you violated copyright, how could you!?” I sampled only 3.5 seconds of the piece, well under the fair use guidelines for media literacy education. That means, I can repurpose, remix, and republish the work for non-commercial educational purposes. Since this is for a class on digital storytelling, I think that counts. From there, I brought the MP3 into Garageband, where I chopped it down to my already mentioned 3.5 seconds, and then dragged that one little loop out to last 11 measures or so. I wish I could say that I started methodically placing beats and loops to help build the ringtone in a cohesive way, but I’ll be honest; I dug through the hundreds of loops that Apple provides with Garageband, trying out many different synth, drum, and guitar loops until I found the ones that “sounded good”, being careful to create new tracks for each new instrument.

Once I had assembled the loops I wanted, I then fiddled with adding some audio effects to the individual instruments. These effects included a host of terminology that I am completely ignorant of, including Resonance Ticks (that’s the one that makes the Twilight Zone theme sound so staccato and jumpy), Compressors, and Reverbs. I wish I could explain what these did, other than how it made certain instruments sound a bit more “crunchy”, but I can’t. Just imagine how powerful Garageband would be in the hands of a trained musician, or music teacher? I’ve long harbored a guilty desire to work in a 1:1 school just so I could see an amazing band, choir, or music teacher have students compose their own short pieces of music and tunes using Garageband while providing the necessary background for learners to understand what they’re doing.

Garageband even has a nice “Share” menu that takes projects directly into iTunes in MP3 or AAC format. There’s even an option to export as an M4R, a ringtone format used by Apple’s iOS devices. That means I can take this file and annoy people with my iPad every time someone “tweets” me, or a new message arrives 🙂 Seriously though, if there are music teachers out there that have access to Apple’s devices and haven’t found a way for students to deepen their appreciation of music through creation of short, playful tunes of their own, I could only imagine the creative learning they’re missing out on.


  1. I love this ringtone and think your post is very inspiring. I recently downloaded the Garageband app and have had a hard time making heads or tails of how to use it. i’ve got zero musical sensibility in terms composing music or playing instruments.

    Your detailed write up gives me the impression that I might be able to make something like this. I hope to be able to give it a whirl soon. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Ben,

    This is brilliant! I found it from the Scottlo Cast, and he is right, you’ve produced a gem here! If I had a cell phone, this would be my ring. Man you have been ds106 #4life for so long now, who is better than you?

    1. Oh heck, just riding this DS106 wave as long as I can. It’s a great excuse to play with a whole bunch of different applications and programs, and connect with people that constantly challenge me. Every time I dip back into this world, there’s more awesome going on than I can shake a USB stick at!

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