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Learn how we fine-tune the Nest doorbell ringtones

An adult and child wearing costumes ringing a Nest Doorbell (battery) at someone’s door.

When you think of a doorbell, a particular sound probably comes to mind — for me, it’s the classic “ding dong.” When we launched Nest Doorbell (wired) in 2018, formerly known as Nest Hello, we introduced a new take on the quintessential doorbell sound with a single chime. And it got us thinking — what if we created even more options? And ones that would add a bit more magic around the house?

So we started creating doorbell ringtones you can download seasonally through the Google Home app, like a ghost or witch’s voice for Halloween or a beloved carol for Christmas. There are also options available year-round, like everyday chimes and a birthday tune.

Halloween Witch

We feature a handful of ringtones every Halloween, like this witch’s cackle to spook trick-or-treaters.

This year, we’re adding even more to our seasonal collection, with ringtones for Lunar New Year, Diwali and other global celebrations coming soon. A new ringtone for Oktoberfest is up next, which will be available from September 5 to October 5.

But how exactly do you create a doorbell ringtone? As an audio designer on the Google Nest team, it’s my job to figure that out. Today, I’m taking you behind the scenes to show you exactly how I do it — from researching different sounds to composing the final ringtone you download in your Google Home app.

Hit the right note

A lot of teams work together to decide new doorbell ringtone themes for the year. Our goal is always to create themes that are inclusive, meaningful and entertaining to people around the world.

To do that, there are a few factors we need to consider. First off, ringtones need to be pretty short — our rule is no more than 10 seconds — so your visitors don’t get impatient waiting at the door. And to be universally accessible and understandable, they can’t have any speech or lyrics. We can also only use musical pieces that are either original compositions or in the public domain (meaning, they were composed before 1926).

From there, we typically design ringtones in one of two ways. We either base it off a short musical riff, like “Jingle Bells” for Christmas. Or, if there aren’t many musical options for the occasion, we’ll create a version of the “ding-dong” sound with a sound effect. For example, in our Thanksgiving ringtone, you’ll hear the traditional “ding dong” followed by a turkey gobble.

Thanksgiving Gobble

Greet your hungry Thanksgiving guests at the door with a turkey gobble.

Put a ring on it

Once we’ve landed on a moment and overall design, we’re ready to create our ringtone. Let’s take a look at how we made the new one for Oktoberfest.

The first step? Research. I listened to and analyzed the musical arrangements and styles of a variety of traditional polka songs.

Ben in his home recording studio. He’s sitting and holding a red bass guitar with various instruments and audio equipment around him.

My home recording studio, where I do all my composing and audio editing.

Then, I composed a simple, original melody on the piano (at a rather slow tempo), along with separate harmony and bass lines. Using audio production software, I replaced each of the piano tracks with a digital sample of a traditional German accordion, and sped up the tempo so it was doorbell-friendly.

Oktoberfest Accordion Polka

Our new Oktoberfest ringtone, which features a short, original composition arranged for an accordion.

In some cases, like the Oktoberfest ringtone, I can use traditional instruments. Other ringtones require some more… creative solutions. Take the Thanksgiving ringtone. Because many recordings of turkey gobbles aren’t very clear (real turkey sounds are pretty muddy and outdoor sounds mixed in can make them even harder to hear), I recorded them using my own voice. I now know way too much about the intricacies of a turkey gobble.

Once I compose, edit (and edit some more), I share the ringtone with different teams for feedback and test how it sounds on the Nest doorbell speaker. After making any final changes, we name the ringtone and post it so people can easily download it from the Google Home app.

Since we started creating these doorbell ringtones, they’ve been a nice surprise for Nest users and a fun project for our team. There are a lot more ringtones in the works, so keep an eye out for announcements. In the meantime, I hope this new ringtone whisks you away, even just for a moment, to an Oktoberfest celebration somewhere in Germany!

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