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There are few sounds as well-known as the Nokia Tune. It’s no surprise really, since it’s been our default ringtone for almost 20 years. We first heard the Grande Valse in a commercial back in 1993 and a year later, it was made into a ringtone. The rest is history – it’s heard nearly two billion times a day across the world!

Since then, the Nokia Tune has been updated eight times, and other Nokia sounds have been renewed as well. In fact, it was only very recently that Nokia’s sound and visual design team completed their latest renewal introducing the latest version of the Nokia Tune and bringing new beats to the alarm clock, email, calendar, messages and start-up sounds.

We spoke to sound design experts Tapio Hakanen and Henry Daw to find out how the updated sounds came to be.

“The latest renewal is not a radical revolution, but more of a subtle evolution”, Tapio explains.

The team started the task literally by listening. They listened to the old sounds dozens of times and thought about the proper way to bring new elements in. Both consumers and sound experts were consulted. Finally, they created four different versions of the Nokia Tune and one was selected as the official version.

There are a lot of details related to sound you probably don’t come to think of. For example, what is the proper pitch? How many times should the sound “go around”? Is a modern, traditional or a synthetic sound better suited for the purpose?

The team naturally follows international music trends, but Nokia itself has a strong idea of how the ringtone should sound. Tapio mentions functionality and discretion a number of times.

”Nokia has gone in a more minimalist direction in recent years. We talk a lot about purity in design and the same applies to sound design.”

During the years, the Nokia Tune has been played with different instruments like a guitar and a piano.

Earlier, the Nokia sound was perhaps a tad more relaxed and now we are heading towards a bolder direction. The change, however, is subtle.

”Renewing and changing everything at once is not a value in itself. When you are renewing sound, the end result needs to be meaningfully better,” Henry says.

We can hear percussions, bells as well as synthethic elements in the new ring tone.

Regional and cultural differences need to be considered too. In Asia, for example, people generally enjoy louder sounds. In Western countries, those same sounds might be considered irritating. A large number of people never change their ringtone, so in a way, the Nokia Tune has been designed for these people. People who really want to emphasize their personality will change their ringtone anyway.

But let’s not forget the good old alarm clock! It is, after all, the first sound many people hear when starting their day.

“The alarm clock is also the one sound we receive most spontaneous feedback for”, Tapio says. The new alarm clock is slower and almost zenish. It starts off slow and lasts for 30 seconds. In many competing devices, the alarm clock sounds like a buzzer!

We think the new sounds are modern and fresh. But don’t take our word for it, listen in yourself!

The brand sounds are automatically installed to new Nokia devices, but old Nokia users can upload the new sounds from the Nokia Store and the Nokia Design Sound Cloud pages. If you’re using a Lumia, you can download the alarm clock and ringtone sounds and install them using Nokia Ringtone Maker or Audiocloud app.

Let us know what you think about the new sounds in the comment box below.