A vibraslap manufactured by Latin Percussion
The vibraslap is a percussion instrument consisting of a piece of stiff wire (bent into a U-shape) connecting a wood ball to a hollow box of wood with metal “teeth” inside. The percussionist holds the metal wire in one hand and strikes the ball (usually against the palm of their other hand). The box acts as a resonating body for a metal mechanism placed inside with a number of loosely fastened pins or rivets that vibrate and rattle against the box. The instrument is a modern version of the jawbone.
The vibraslap was invented by Martin Cohen in 1967. Cohen was told by percussionist Bobby Rosengarden, "If you want to make some money, make a jawbone that doesn’t break." About the inventing process Cohen remembers, "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 vibraslap descended from the African "jawbone". This is the lower jawbone of a donkey or a zebra which has loose teeth that rattle when the instrument is struck. The Instrument was carried by slaves to South America where it became known as the Quijada.
The vibraslap comes in a variety of sizes and materials and is sometimes marketed under the name "Donkey Call","Donkey Rattle" or "Rattleslap."
Examples in well-known music
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The Vibraslap can be heard very clearly on the 1967 US No. 1 hit single "Green Tambourine" by The Lemon Pipers and is frequently and prominently used in the music of the alternative rock group Cake. It can be heard on a number of famous rock songs like "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne, "Sweet Emotion" by Aerosmith, "Orange Crush" by R.E.M., "A Change of Seasons" by Dream Theater, "Feelin' Alright" by Joe Cocker and throughout the aptly titled "Donkey Jaw" by America (band). It can also be clearly heard at the beginning of "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" by Traffic, right after the long, slow fade in to the introduction. Also notable: Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones played the vibraslap in the Jimi Hendrix song "All Along the Watchtower". The Vibraslap is also used in the songs "Billionaire" by Travie McCoy, "You're In" by Kimya Dawson and "I Don't Like It, I Love It" by Flo Rida. It can also be heard in "Asesina" by Okills, as well as in "Teenagers" by My Chemical Romance. The instrumental theme to the television show "Room 222" featured the sound of a Vibraslap at regular intervals throughout the song. The 1992 hit "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang," by Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg, also prominently features the sound of the vibraslap. Carl Palmer, drummer and percussionist with Emerson, Lake & Palmer made use of the vibraslap. Other tunes which include the Vibraslap are "Rude 69" by Let's Go Bowling, A Fifth of Beethoven by Walter Murphy, "Shouldn't Judge a Man" by Skankin' Pickle, and even Tony! Toni! Toné! - Feels Good.
- "Vibra-Slap", Music.VT.edu. URL last accessed December 11, 2009.
- "Donkey Call or Vibraslap". Ethnic Musical Instruments.com. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
- "LP Vibra-Slap II - Standard Wood (LP208)", SteveWeissMusic.com. URL last accessed December 11, 2009.
- "PASIC 2012 Archived August 24, 2014, at the Wayback Machine", PAS.org. URL last accessed December 11, 2009.
- Karl Peinkofer and Fritz Tannigel, Handbook of Percussion Instruments, (Mainz, Germany: Schott, 1976), 159.
- Afro Peruvian Percussion & the Cajon: Basic History & Rhythms Accessed online February 24, 2015
- Padgett, Ray: The Story Behind Jimi Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower."
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