From a humble jingle to a world-renowned piece of music that crosses cultural boundaries, Nokia’s seminal ringtone continues to signify much more than an incoming call.The most-played melody today, which celebrates its twentieth birthday this year, is estimated to be played around 20,000 times a second.
Back in 1992, Nokia ran its first ever television advertisement for mobile phones. The music playing to promote the Nokia 1011 was Grande Valse, by Francisco Tárrega. It was a 31 second tune but it was an unremarkable three-second snippet in the middle that is ringing on millions of Nokia phone till date.
“That’s how Nokia Tune was born”, says Tapio, “The first product that came out with it was in 1994; the Nokia 2110. It was monophonic, meaning it played just one note at a time. It worked perfectly with the music”
Shortly after that, Nokia being the first to introduce the polyphonic capability through the Nokia 3510 allowed the note to play in more than one note which was in 2002.
This was followed by the introduction of high-quality MIDI instrumentation on mobile devices such as the Nokia 7650 still in the same year. This allowed multiple notes to be played at the same time with greater sound quality. Combined with the hardware advances, Grande Valse was starting to sound more real
After this came the potential to use a piece of recorded audio. In 2004 with the Nokia 9500 Nokia chose to use a piano version for its now-recognisable theme tune.
In 2007 when the company introduced the N95, Nokia switched back to the acoustic guitar as the lead instrument for its default ringtone.
“There was this nu-folk trend at the time. The singer-songwriter was back in fashion and this acoustic version reflected contemporary culture”, says Tapio.
The phones started taking a very pure tune with the N9; it brought out the tune in a more refined and simple way.
In recent years, the way in which new variations of Nokia Tune has been chosen has shifted. For the Lumia 920, the Nokia Design Sound Team – made up of sound professionals, producers, musicians and DJs – ran an internal project to generate four variants of Nokia Tune using acoustic and computer-generated elements.
The winning variant is what you hear across the whole gamut of Nokia devices today; from the Nokia 225 to the Lumia 1520.
“We suddenly realized that people were creating their own versions of Nokia Tune, which ended up on YouTube. Some were really great, so we opened up the idea and hosted a crowd-sourcing contest where the main prize was to have your version loaded onto the 2012 run of Nokia devices not as a default but as an option sitting next to Nokia’s default ringtone. The response was absolutely incredible.”
In 2011, more than 2,800 people from 70 countries entered the Nokia Tune remake competition, creating 6,238 versions of Nokia Tune – every single version was reviewed by the team at Nokia Design. The winning remake was a dubstep edition.
For twenty years Nokia Tune has been the default ringtone for all Nokia phones.
Just like the Nokia Tune, Conversations has grown from a humble corporate blog to what it is today. Since we launched in 2008, Nokia has published more than 7,000 stories, which have generated more than 80,000 comments and a readership in millions.
Nokia says: “Today is a historic day for us at Conversations. Our time with the Nokia family comes to an end, but our seat at the table at the Microsoft family has been set. Wherever we sit, we’ll keep humming the Nokia Tune. Today, tomorrow and beyond. Will you join us in the chorus?”