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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Shaw

New Transcription: "Main Theme" from Animal Crossing: New Horizons (2020)

It's time to sit back, relax, and forget about your mortgage payments - here is a full sheet music transcription and recreation of the upcoming main title theme from "Animal Crossing: New Horizons".

If you're after the sheet music for the "Main Theme" from Animal Crossing New Horizons, you can find it here!

This includes individual part scores for:

  • Flugelhorn

  • Bongos

  • Shaker

  • Tambourine

  • Acoustic Guitar

  • Ukulele

  • Upright Bass

  • Piano

  • Synth or Electric Organ

  • Accordion

If you are one of my Patrons, you can now find the MIDI, XML and SIB files I created for this transcription now available to download from your Patreon Google Drive folder!


Arranger's Note:

"For a soundtrack that accompanies a relaxing and casual simulation game, it is no surprise that it is similarly calming and laid-back.

The main theme here opens with a thin texture of instruments rarely found in orchestras - a ukulele and flugelhorn, later joined with bongos, shakers and upright bass - suggesting a departure from the more serious concert aesthetic. This mirrors the game's departure from being a strict simulation genre, and instead following a casual care-free focus.

Harmonically, there is quite a bit going on: we begin by descending from F major (F-A-C) into Bb major (Bb-D-F; 0:03), followed quickly by a major-minor shift into Bb minor (Bb-Db-F) with an added 6th (G) to allow smooth voice leading back down to the tonic of F, now in 2nd inversion (with the C at the root of the chord; 0:07). Then we jump from the tonic of F into G (G-B-D; 0:08), functioning as a secondary dominant progression into C major (here as a suspended 4th dominant chord; C-F-G-Bb), allowing for a perfect cadence back into the tonic once more.

The melody here has what at first appears to be a surprising amount of rhythmic syncopation for such a casual game. Though this rhythmic feature is a commonplace staple of previous Animal Crossing soundtracks, and so it becomes no surprise that it makes an appearance here.

This opening 4-bar phrase repeats with additional instruments (0:12), but is cut short by an interrupted cadence into the flattened-6th degree of Db (Db-F-Ab; 0:19) - a tritone away from the previous chord of G7 (G-B-D-F). But Db is not the true new key. Instead, it functions as a subdominant pivot into Eb (Eb-G-Bb) - the dominant chord of the new key which is instead, Ab major (Ab-C-Eb).

How do we get from the new key of Ab and back to the tonic of F? Simple: a tertiary modulation. Here (0:27), we pivot from Ab major up a 3rd (the tertiary modulation) to C major (C-E-G) - the dominant chord of our tonic, F. But this is not a straight forward dominant chord; we have several added notes of the 7th (Bb) and 9th (D). This forms what can be colloquially known as a "Gospel Chord" (C-G-Bb-D; 0:28), often found in... well... Gospel music.

It is possible that Totaka's use of a "Gospel Chord" here is to elicit a sense of community as Gospel choirs have a remarkably strong communal aspect. And since a primary goal of the Animal Crossing series is to build your own communities, this would be a sensible connection.

Similarly, the reason for there being so many modulations and key changes in the opening 30s could be an allusion to the theme of "travelling" in the Animal Crossing series as we travel across multiple locations.

Continuing through the track, we have now returned to the tonic of F (0:34) as we follow a simple common progression of I - IV - V (F-Bb-C) which repeats twice. Afterwards (0:45), we abruptly travel once more to a new key of A major (A-C#-E) - another tertiary shift - and repeat the same I - IV - V progression (A-D-E). However, this time it is extended to progress from E to F# minor (F#-A-C#) via a C# major tertiary pivot (C#-E#-G#).

But we are not done yet. We ascend upwards once again from F# minor to the more familiar G major (G-B-D; 0:50) as we begin to prepare for our flight back home to F major... Or maybe not! As we move upwards once again to A major (A-C#-E; 0:52) and an interrupted cadence into Bb, allowing one final ascension to our old friend, C major - the dominant chord of our original tonic - once again appearing as a "Gospel Chord".

The smooth voice leading in the bassline allows such dramatic modulations to appear natural, as it slips effortlessly up throughout this passage (0:45 - 0:58) - a great technique for seamless modulations."


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