Animal Crossing - 5PM

Jan 2021

This time I wanted to explore new fields and surprise with a song from the popular Animal Crossing video game. Part of my interest in music stemmed from some extraordinary OST from movies or video game soundtracks, of which I have always been a fan. Although in the world of soundtracks their techniques and structures are quite different from what is normally used in the songs we listen to, you can always learn something from them. That is why I decided to do a remake from one song from the latest Animal Crossing title “New Horizons”, titled “5PM”. In the game, a different song is played for each of the 24 hours a day, so this particular song plays in the game every day at exactly 5:00 p.m.

Here is my remake:

Within the game, there is a character called K.K. Slider who gives concerts on Saturdays (some of them super good). He has gained a large community of fans, (I declare myself one of them!). There are even virtual live performances of this Animal Crossing character. Check it out if you're curious:

Within the game you can get vinyls of all the K.K. Slider songs, each one with a totally different music genre, including reggae, disco, soul, country, D&B, jazz, house, blues, bossa ... which is super instructive to explore the techniques of each style. You can collect up to 98 different songs, each one of a different music genre!

Even if you are not interested in the game at all, I would recommend to all musicians to take a look at the playlist. You learn very quickly what colors of chords, rhythms or resources characterize each music genre in a very refreshing way. Here I leave a link to the playlist.

The song that I have deconstructed has a very interesting piano chord progression that is explained below, a guitar with wah-wah adding that rhythmic touch to the song to compensate for the fact that the drums are quite straight, and a lead synth that adds melody throughout the song. And for those of you who haven't heard this song before, here is the original one.


Thanks to the effort of Rodrigo Arribas, I have added a music theory section to this remake, since this song has an interesting harmonic structure. Rodrigo has Jazz studies and currently teaches music. He has been a guitarist of "Melts" and now plays the keyboard in various bands. He is also writing music for film, theater and image.

The piece is written in an AABBA’ form. Sections A and B are in different keys (A major and B major, respectively), but their harmony is parallel. This means their chords —with someslight variations— represent the same tonal degrees. In other words, section B’s chords are A’s chords transposed one tone up. The melody, which is also parallel, strengthens this effect.

These chords are based in one of the main foundations of jazz harmony: the IIm7- V7 - Imaj7 sequence. Just like rock and pop music features the IV- V - I sequence in thousands of songs, the II-V-I is the principal progression found in swing, bebop and other jazz standards. In fact, the only difference between the two sequences is the first chord, but its soundis pretty similar: the third and the fifth of a IIm triad coincides with the root and the third of a V triad, respectively. That’s why both chords share a same function: they are subdominants.

Let's now take a closer look to the actual chords:

At first sight, is easy to observe that each section consists of two major chords distanced by a tone. Although it might look confusing, if we pay attention to the bass notes we will find out that what’s really going on is the II-V-I sequence with some subtle variations. This is what the chords look like if we take in consideration not only the piano part, but the electric bass part too:

The creativity of this piece doesn’t have to do with the actual sequence of chords, but the specific way it’s been played. This technique of keeping the same chord on the piano while changing the bass note results in a double effect: it smoothens the transition between each pair of chords and colors the sound of the usual II-V-I sequence (e.g.: the fifth grade isn’t strictly a V7, but a V7sus with a 9th and a 13th; the IIm7 is played with a 9th; the Imaj7 has no third, making its sound lighter…etc). In addition, the sequence ends with an F#13 (G#13 in section B), which works as the dominant of the second grade. This is known as a secondary dominant: an X7 chord that resolves in any grade of the key different from the I. In jazz music, when this chord is placed at the end of a tune it’s called “turnaround”. It’s a common way to connect fluently the ending of a piece with its beginning.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out another typical means to tie chords together: chromatism.There are several examples of this technique along the tune. For instance, an ascending chromatic A#m7 to get to Bm9 (section B-A’) and a descending chromatic Eb to land on Bm9 (section A’). But the most interesting example is the G13 that goes to F#13. This chord is not only chromatic, but given that it is a dominant, it’s considered a susbtitute secondary dominant. A substitute dominant is an X7 type of chord located three tones apart from the original dominant. In this example, G13 is three tones away from the “official” dominant that would resolve in F#13; C#13. These two chords are called substitutes because they have in common their most important notes —the 3rd and the 7th— and thus, they share the same harmonic function. In turn, the F#13 is another secondary dominant of Bm9. This progression of secondary dominants is known as “chain of dominants” or “cycle of fifths”, and it’s also a foundation of jazz harmony.

The structure of the whole song is represented here:


The song is built with piano chords that sound throughout the song. It has a classic piano tone, percussive and heavy in mid frequencies. For this I have used the Piano V by Arturia until I found a preset with a similar timbre, in this case the "Japanese Small Room" preset. I have lowered the reverb it had and I have put a little boost in high-mid frequencies to give it more brightness.

You can listen to this piano below:


I have layered this main piano with another one using the Electric Piano that comes with the Ableton to add more weight in the bass and mid frequencies, which complements the previous one. Below you can listen to this one:

Layered Piano

Afterwards, we find a lead synth playing some melodies throughout the song. It has a distinctive sound that immediately made me think of the Juno 60 emulator, TAL-U-NO. The initial preset "Startup" that appears as soon as we open this VST already sounds quite similar to the sound we want to get. I have modified the freq and filter values a bit. When playing it, you have to play at certain times with the keyboard's pitch bending control to give it those little bending touches of the original song.

Lead 1

In the second verse, where the song changes its key to B Major, this lead changes its sound to another with a style more similar to a brass, with a slower attack. This change in sound adds some dynamics to the song. A similar sound can be achieved starting from a brass preset with the same TAL-U-NO.

Lead 2

There is another keyboard that appears in the chromatic steps when the song key changes. The sound of this instrument is not very clear when listening to the original song because of the wah-wah or phaser effect. I have decided to recreate it with an electric piano through Arturia's Stage V but it is likely that the same effect can be achieved with other types of more artificial sounds. I have taken a standard fender rhodes sound with the Stage V and run it through the Guitar Rig 5 amp emulator, plugging in a phaser pedal with a high enough rate to recreate that sound. The same effect could also be achieved using a wah-wah pedal and automating the opening.

You can then hear this sound without, and with the phaser. As you can see, the personality and presence of this sound is totally generated by the phaser effect.

Electric Piano without wah-wah

Electric Piano with wah-wah

Finally, there is a small organ that makes a flourish at the end of the first half of the song, before repeating the first verse again.



Throughout the song, you can hear a guitar plucking with some palm mute and clearly with a wah-wah. For this I have used the Guitar Rig 5 and I have put an auto-filter to act automatically when playing the notes and give that wah effect to the guitar. Again, all the personality that this guitar brings to the song comes from the wah-wah.



The drums sound on this track is pretty standard, so a similar sound can be achieved in just a few steps. Just try a few basic Addictive Drums 2 presets to find a suitable one. In this case, the "Studio Pop - Sonor Rock" preset. It has not been necessary to put any effects or post-production, nor even edit the parameters within the Addictive, this preset already sounds practically like the original song, as you can listen to below:



The bass of the song does not have a very elaborate sound, with any type of bass it could be done, even with a VST emulator in case you do not have a physical bass. Equalizing it so that it has great bass frequencies (since it is the only element with bass where the subject is supported), without too much brightness, it is enough. For this he used the Waves JJP-Bass plugin which I recommend to round out low-bodied basses. You can listen to it below.


I hope you enjoyed it, don't forget to watch the remake video and subscribe! See you in the next article.

David Alonso patreonthanks for reading!

If you liked it, or if you want to download the Ableton Projects with the
plugins used and all the tracks & midi files by one click, check out my Patreon page!

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