The vibraslap is an extremely complex percussion instrument. I’ll attempt to explain: It consists of a piece of stiff, heavy wire (bent into a U-shape) connecting a solid wood sphere to a hollow box with metal “teeth” inside, and is operated by creating a strong, sudden downward force in order to generate vibrations in its resonating body. In other words, you smack a ball and the thing rattles. I hope I didn’t go too fast.
If you’re not actively listening for it, the vibraslap sound might be easy to miss. But it has actually appeared in many well-known rock songs, the most famous instances probably being ‘Feelin’ Alright’ by Joe Cocker, ‘Sweet Emotion’ by Aerosmith, ‘All Along The Watchtower’ by Jimi Hendrix, ‘Fame’ by David Bowie, ‘The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys’ by Traffic, and of course ‘Crazy Train’ by Ozzy Osbourne (plus let’s not forget somewhat less prominent examples such as ‘Green Tambourine’ by The Lemon Pipers, Elton John’s ‘Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy’ and, I dare not leave out, ‘Early In The Morning’ by the legendary Gap Band). However, the band that puts the very intricate vibraslap apparatus to the most use, by far, is Cake. For whatever reason, their singer/bandleader/slapper, John McCrea, is practically in a full onslaught attack on that thing throughout the majority of their songs; the poor wooden ball never stands a chance. On this record, one of Cake’s biggest hits ‘Short Skirt / Long Jacket’ from the 2001 album “Comfort Eagle,” you’ll hear McCrea’s assault beginning right away at the 4-second mark, and then again at 0:20, 1:10, 2:06 and 2:22. And this could be one of his lighter slap showings. I’d guess his hits commonly hit double-figures, and I counted 26 on their 1994 tune ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle’. Now that’s some impressive, high-volume slapping.
Full disclosure: I myself am a credited vibraslap artist on two recordings by the western Massachusetts indie/alt-rock band Tundrastomper, the first on the song ‘Time To Win’ from their 2014 album “Victory,” and the second from their 2017 release “O” called ‘O Translucent Animal’. I toiled away tirelessly in the studio to make my significant contributions to those pieces. I’m right there in the liner notes, it’s true. Secondary disclosure: Tundrastomper is my son Max’s band, and the studio was my basement. So, as for any possible future percussion gigs, those may have been my only slap shots.