Phone Ring s.e. IDEAS?!?!

Hey guys!

I'm from a new indie theatre in Detroit called The Ringwald. We are currently working on the Craig Wright play, Recent Tragic Events...a show with a LOT of telephone ringing.

We have a lot of other sound effects (mainly the low hum of a television) which currently takes up our channel we use for any music/sound effects (we're pretty limited on our equipment here as you can tell)....

I would like to be able to control the numerous telephone rings via a remote control or some sort of sound board (like a physical type board) and have even considered getting one of those children's phones w/ the button that makes the phone ring.

The current cordless we use in the show has a paging option that is only a -beep.beep.beep- and not so much like a phone ring as that was my first idea.

Does anyone have any brilliant (and somewhat cost-efficient) ideas on the sound effect of a cordless phone?

I would appreciate any feedback and thank you in advance for your time.

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Who Wants Cake? Theatre
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Senior Team
Senior Team
Premium Member


CB Mods
Premium Member
I would second Footer. The Tele-Q is a great tool. I bought one when they first came out years ago, and it received a lot of use. The version I bought had a set of jumpers inside that would allow you to alter the frequency/style of ring. I don't know if there have been any improvements to the models over the years, my only complaint on the unit was that you had to open it up to change the jumpers.
If you need to make several different phones ring at different times, but you want them to all be diffrent rings, it would be possible to build a switch box so that you can use the output of the Tele-q to power several diferent phones, just a little soldering and some RJ11 connectors.


Wireless Guy
Premium Member
I concur with the recommendation of the Tele-Q for phone ringing - it sounds way better than a phone over the PA!

BTW, what are you using for your sound effect playback?
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Well-Known Member
You've got another recommendation for the Tele-Q. Works very well, and is quite easy to use. I ran two shows with one this summer, it worked great. And the phone ring carried just fine in our theater.


Active Member
If you want to do it over the PA, you can get some ring tones from, or just from some cd's from your library.

If you're going to be using a lot of fx, and you don't already have a professional program to run them off of, then soundplant is a good free little program that turns every key on a computer into a button for a different sound.

I have never heard of or seen this Tele-Q, but it looks spiffy.


If any of you knew me, you would note that there is low tech.... and then there is me.

We are doing the female version of odd couple, and needed a ringing phone. I looked into many of the options, including the tele-q, and decided that I would just make one of our existing prop phone ring. How hard could it be?

I took apart a princess phone, and two of our rotary phones, and a couple of more modern phones, and quickly learned that the current to get them to ring is very specific, and it would be troublesome to convert/rig it, but when I looked inside one of our older rotary phones, and actual bells inside inspired me.

Basically, the signal in the old phone is sent to a transformer, which wiggles a rod with a clapper between two bells. All I needed was a way to wiggle the clapper remotely.

I went to the drugstore, bought a cheap electric toothbrush, took it apart, leaving only the motor and wire, which fit the clapper perfectly! I gutted the phone, leaving only the bells and metal support, and hot glued the toothbrush inside in position. Then I wired a circuit that allowed me to run the toothbrush (using telephone wire btw) to a battery and switch backstage. I additionally wired the rig so that picking up the receiver interrupted the circuit.

A push of the button, and the phone rings!

But it looks really funny inside. I have the pictures to prove it.


Wireless Guy
Premium Member
I also suggest the Tele-Q. U.Va. has two of them, and when one broke after years of use the guy who makes it repaired (replaced, actually) it for a very reasonable cost as I recall. It's also dirt simple to use and very rugged.


Well-Known Member
Commonly I stick a small speaker near the phone (often directly under the phone) and run it from the sound board (often an aux).
Using recorded, downloaded or purchased sound effects of various phone rings.

This method is very useful in certain circumstances as there are many different sounding telephone rings in the annals of history. Various European rings, and North American rings differ. Depends on the location and time period of the play in question.

Often a quick and dirty way to have different rings that are accurate. Also useful to distinguish between locations in the same play by a slightly different ring.

I use a piece of software that allows me to play sound effects on demand, and even multiple at a time.

I wish I had the money for SFX and a output interface with more than two channels. At school we used SFX and a MOTU, allowing us to have each output directed to a different speaker output.
I have used the Tele-Q and the speaker under the phone. I prefer the tele-q but you ahve to buy that. Of course that may be cheaper if you don't have an extra speaker and cable, but you have to have the sound op stop the sound when the reciver is lifted. Do not play the sound out of the regular FOH speakers, it sounds awful.


Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Premium Member
...I additionally wired the rig so that picking up the receiver interrupted the circuit. ...
Very good addition, as there's nothing more comical than a phone that continues to ring, even if only for a fraction of a second, after the receiver is lifted.:(
Very good addition, as there's nothing more comical than a phone that continues to ring, even if only for a fraction of a second, after the receiver is lifted.
Well, the trick to that is to train the actor to only pick up the phone between ring cycles.

I play the phone sound through my usual speakers, and no one's complained yet.

I once rigged a clock radio so I could play the music cue directly through it, but it was distracting to the actresses in the scene, so I went back to playing it through the main mix.

The trick I use is to pan the sound effect to the side of the stage where the sound is supposed to come from, and for the most part, it works well enough.

Edit - Another reason we don't use a ring generator, is because some of the phones we have were broken in the first place.
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Active Member
I had a really great circuit bookmarked but I can't find it.... You pushed the button and it started the ringing cycle on the phone and didn't stop until the receiver was picked up. It used a single chip, some caps and resistors, and a transformer. I didn't get to build it though, the director didn't want to pay a whole $20 for something that could be used over and over again when we could get a phone sound effect for free... Oh well.

The cool part was that it was actually ringing the phone, not just playing a sound. I'll have to see if I can find it. It was completely DIY, but easy enough to solder up on a piece of perf board from Radioshack.

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