At the 2012 NAMM Show, I had the chance to talk with developer Andy Graham and to check out his electric tuned percussion instrument, the Slaperoo.
Graham is a metalworker and a percussionist and he combines these two parts of his background in the Slaperoo. Inspired by a long shipping crate with a highly tensioned steel strap, the Slaperoo uses the same type of steel strapping to produce it’s unique percussive tones.
The rigid tubular body of the Slaperoo is made of anodized 6061 alloy aluminum, which provides the strength necessary to handle the hundreds of pounds of tension required for the the strap to get its unique sound.
The strap floats just above the length of the body, allowing it to be ‘fretted’ like a stand-up bass. However, rather than strumming, the strap is struck against the body with one or two hands. It can even be bowed like a violin.
At the heart of the Slaperoo lies a custom-designed transducer (pickup) that converts the vibrations of the strap into an audio signal. The 1/4-inch instrument plug in the back allows it to be used with any instrument amplifier and any standard effects pedals.
It’s handcrafted and fairly indestructable, since it’s made almost completely of metal.
Playing The Slaperoo
The Slaperoo can be played in several ways, as the video shows. Note that their are two aspects to the instrument’s sound: the acoustic strike, which is more noticeable close up, and electric sound from the pickup, which is more dominant when you’re further away. This video gets more of the acoustic sound because of proximity.
The instrument is tuned to a fundamental pitch using a tuning nut. Playing the steel band with a stick creates percussive bass sounds at the fundamental. It can also be played like a percussive stand-up bass, using one hand to bring out overtones or different pitches. While not demonstrated in this video, Graham says that you can also bow it. The use of different effects pedals creates a variety of sounds.
The Slaperoo is sells for $599 via Graham’s site.