It's one of the most modern of all analogue percussion instruments, a combination of stiff wire, wooden ball and box with metal teeth, a replacement for animal bones, but where does it appear in songs? The vibraslap was invented as late as 1967 by Martin B Cohen who was inspired to create a modern version of what for centuries from Africa to South America had been the jawbone – a donkey, horse or zebra skull hit or shaken to produce a rattling sound from loose teeth. The problem with that ancient idea is that these can easily shatter, and don't produce a consistent sound, not to mention the issue or sourcing. As Cohen put it:
"I had never seen a jawbone before, but I had heard one on a Cal Tjader album. I found out that it was an animal skull that you would strike, and the sound would come from the teeth rattling in the loose sockets. So I took that concept and invented the Vibraslap, which was my first patent." The instrument patent was picked up by the Latin Percussion Company.
Here's a demonstration:
The length of the sound can be shortened by holding more of the wire and by leaving the palm of the hand on the wooden ball. By contrast, the jawbone, which could be from a donkey, horse or zebra, but has a less consistent sound and often loses teeth when played:
The vibraslap, with its pleasing boing and rattle, was quickly adopted, was used in perhaps the most famous cover of Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, released in 1968, right at the beginning when the player was no less than Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, who appears to strike it.
David Bowie meanwhile chose to include some vibrasap to give some extra spring at end of Fame, from Young Americans (1975):
It's also an ear-catching addition on R.E.M's Orange Crush from Green (1988):
The instrument pops up in a variety of different genres. It stylishly tingles at the beginning of Dr Dre’s hit (with Snoop Dogg) – Nothin' But A "G" Thang from 1992's The Chronic.
American band Cake love the instrument and it appears on several of their songs - including in the middle of their version of Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps from 1996's Fashion Nugget:
And Leicester rockers Kasabian use a generous amount on their glam-rock boogie Where Did All The Love Go? from 2006's West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum:
Where else have you heard the vibraslap twanging and rattling? Feel free to share other examples in songs or instrumentals, on albums, or other contexts? Feel free to share your examples in comments below. Do these make you think of something else? Then also feel free to comment below, on the contact page, or on social media: Song Bar Twitter, Song Bar Facebook. Song Bar YouTube. Please subscribe, follow and share.