Setting up custom notification sounds in Android (notification sanity simplified)

You’ve got an Android, and for some reason every notification seems to sound about the same. You’re never sure if you’re getting a text from a loved one telling you they’ve been in an accident, or whether you received some email spam, or it’s your turn in Grumpy Chicken Pole-Vault Extravaganza.

Here’s how to set up notifications for apps and contacts based on sounds that mean something to you. Also a little on how to shut them off automatically when you’re asleep.

I’ll preface this with there are many apps to do this, should this prove too hard, grab one of them.

Custom sounds

Get some new sounds

We’ll start with adding some new notification sounds as your defaults may not be particularly interesting. There are plenty of free sounds out there, here’s a link to one site I found I’m not really endorsing but I’m using it for this demo.

You can also create your own with music, an MP3 editor, sound recorder, etc. That’s for another article. Just don’t sign up for any spam site trying to get notification sounds mmmkay?

For the following we’re going to assume you’ve downloaded a couple of sounds and they’re sitting in your downloads folder on your phone.

Move sounds to the right folder

Using a file manager, file explorer, etc. You’re going to locate your downloads folder, and move the sounds you just downloaded to your Notifications folder.

On mine, using the now evidently banned ES File Explorer, I cut a notification sound from /Downloads and pasted it in /Notifications. I used the Martian-gun sound from the above link for this example, you can get whatever.

Once a compatible format file is in your Notifications folder it becomes system selectable. Compatible formats are MP3, M4A, and probably some others but I’m unable to test at the moment.

Change app notification sounds

We’re going to look first at changing an app notification, then we’ll move on to making incoming communications a bit clearer.

Under system settings, there should be a Notifications section. Tap that, select see all, and you have every app’s notification sound in front of you.

I personally have no interest in paying some of these apps any attention when they notify me, and some I want a unique sound so I know there’s something to look at but I’m not instantly looking thinking someone needs my help right now.

For some of my games, I’ve got notifications enabled but no sound. And for the ones that might alert me that if I don’t get in right now someone’s going to steal all of my hard earned resources I’ve got a little alarm selected.

I’ve moved as many apps as I can think of off anything that might be confused with email or SMS sounds just so I don’t get overloaded with garbage alerts.

Change Contact sounds

I’m using the default sounds for most SMS contacts, but I do have some special ones both for “pay attention to this immediately” and “trapped in a 20 person MMS chat room”.

In Messages (at least Android Messages from Google, as of this writing but possibly not when you read it,) in any contact message you’ve received the hamburger option button should have details, or group details. Under that you can select a particular notification sound, whether to vibrate the phone, blink the light, etc.

A 20 person chat, I don’t want to wear my nerves out listening to it blaring a default sound and vibrating the phone, so I select a little “tok” sound and turn off lights and vibration.

Wife, boss, work, tenants text me, normally set to loud notification and get my attention.

Remember to set Do Not Disturb

I care not one whit for an alarm from an email I get at 2am. and if someone needs me they can call, but I’m not getting woken up out of sleep for a misdirected booty text. I set up Do Not Disturb to kick on at around midnight with exceptions being for contacts.

Also remember to set exceptions for any security software you might employ to tell you if there’s someone spotted in the driveway at 3am trying to get into your cars.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts