Watch this robotic slide whistle quartet belt out Smash Mouth’s ‘All Star’

Well, the notes start coming and they don't stop coming.
Slide Whistle robot quartet
Somehow, it only took Tim Alex Jacobs two weeks to build. YouTube

The slide whistle isn’t known as a particularly difficult instrument to play—there’s a reason they’re usually marketed to children. But designing, programming, and building a robotic slide whistle quartet? That takes a solid background in computer science, a maddening amount of trial-and-error, logistical adjustments to account for “shrinkflation,” and at least two weeks to make it all happen.

That said, if you’re confident in your technical abilities, you too can construct a portable slide-whistle symphony-in-a-box capable of belting out Smash Mouth’s seminal, Billboard-topping masterpiece “All Star.” Fast forward to the 4:47 mark to listen to the tune. 

Despite his initial apology for “crimes against all things musical,” it seems as though Tim Alex Jacobs isn’t feeling too guilty about his ongoing robot slide whistle hobby. Also known online as “mitxela,” Jacobs has documented his DIY musical endeavors on his YouTube channel for years. It appears plans to create MIDI-controlled, automated slide whistle systems have been in the works since at least 2018, but it’s difficult to envision anything much more absurd than Jacob’s latest iteration, which manages to link four separate instruments alongside motorized fans and mechanical controls, all within a latchable carrying case.

Aside from the overall wonky tones that come from slide whistles in general, Jacobs notes just how difficult it would be to calibrate four of them. What’s more, each whistle’s dedicated fan motor differs slightly from one another, making the resultant pressures unpredictable. To compensate for this, Jacobs drilled holes in the pumps to create intentional air leaks, allowing him to run the motors closer to full power than before without overheating.

[Related: Check out some of the past year’s most innovative musical inventions.]

“If we can run them at a higher power level, then the effects of friction will be less significant,” Jacobs explains. But although this reportedly helped a bit, he admits the results were “far from adequate.” Attaching contact microphones to each slide whistle was also a possibility, but the work involved in calibrating them to properly isolate the whistle tones simply wasn’t worth it.

So what was worth the effort? Well, programming the whistles to play “All Star” in its entirety, of course. The four instruments are in no way tuned to one another, but honestly, it probably wouldn’t be as entertaining if they somehow possessed perfect pitch.

Jacobs appears to have plans for further fine tuning (so to speak) down the line, but it’s unclear if he’ll stick with Smash Mouth, or move onto another 90s pop-rock band.