15 years before Yngwie Malmsteen’s Baroque-through-a-Marshall stylings first wowed the guitar community, Dave Edmunds took this Khachaturian composition and turned it into a rock classic… The somewhat furious tempo and the double-stopped sections take ‘Sabre Dance’ toward the hard category. Edmunds has worked (as guitarist or producer) with everyone from Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton to the Everlys and kd lang. However, this selection is probably his best-known recording, here it is once again in its entirety!
Bars 1-2: when playing alone with the backing track, remember to wait for two bars before coming in with the first G5 chord. Bars 3-8: this intro section sets the scene for the track and will sound more effective if you pick all the 8th notes with downstrokes, a la Metallica. I should warn you how that most of this tune sounds better played with downstrokes, which can be quite exhausting at this sort of speed and has been known to cause Cossack’s Elbow – a condition experienced by sword-fighters, tennis players and single men – so be careful! Bars 9-22: this passage constitutes the main theme of the track and once again it pays to use only downstrokes. Don’t be scared to barre one finger over the E and B strings for the double-stops and pay particular attention to timing. Bars 23-40: here the tune modulates up to Bb and the theme returns three frets higher in bars 25-38, moving back down to G in bars 39-40. Bars 41-44: a 4-bar lead-in to the first solo. Bars 45-61: this is the first solo section and Dave experiments with a couple of different scales over the basic G5 backing.
Bars 45-54 feature G Mixolydian:
Bars 55-61 employ the rather more exotic-sounding G Spanish Phrygian (also known as the Phrygian major or the 5th mode of the harmonic minor scale):
Bars 62-79: this section is similar to bars 23-40 but note the three-bar interlude in bars 72-74 where the band drops out; be sure to accent the double-stops here.
Bars 80-81: these bars involve a chromatic run and I’ve notated the fingering the way is sounds to me on the original recording, but there are more positions in which to tackle it – if you’re not comfortable playing that many notes with one finger, try starting on the top E-string at the 3rd fret.
Bars 82-83 simply require running up the Ebm pentatonic scale starting from the b7:
Bars 84-164: now we come to the second solo section. Much of this solo sounds improvised but a few licks worthy of particular attention include the following:
Bar 88: here, Dave takes the notes of a G major triad (G, B and D) and approaches each from a semitone below, a la Django Reinhardt. Bars 92-95: this passage comes from the G harmonic minor scale:
Bars 114-116: a three-beat-long repeating lick, making for some interesting rhythmic displacement and using G Dorian with an added b5, a combination favoured by such latter-day players as Paul Gilbert:
Bars 125-134: for these octave shapes, try using a pick-and-fingers combination, tackling the B-string notes with your right hand middle finger but striking the A-string notes with a pick.
Bars 141-145: the E-string slides here are meant to be special effects rather than actual notes, so don’t worry too much about landing on the exact frets marked in the transcription. Bars 154-158: a definite tip of the hat to Chuck Berry here…
Bars 165-178: after the main solo comes this more composed-sounding section to lead back to the theme.
Bars 179-220: most of this section should look familiar by now!
Bars 221-234: the ending section. This works best if you use downstrokes for all the chords in bars 221-226 and alternate picking for the 16th notes in bars 227-231. Note that the fanfare-esque melody in bars 227-229 is based entirely on a G major triad.
Phew, that’s all for now, we made it!
I believe Dave favoured valve amplification and Gibson 335 guitars at the time of this recording, but an appropriate sound can be obtained from most set-ups if you select the bridge pick-up on your guitar and set your amp for a moderate amount of overdrive, maintaining enough clarity to handle the chords at the end. Don’t be stingy with the treble – as the title suggests, this track benefits from a cutting sound with plenty of attack! In addition, you’ll note that some sections of the transcription are marked ‘w/reverb'; on the original, a plate reverb features throughout, but the engineer seems to be altering the mix of the effect constantly, so that staccato passages like bars 72-74 are relatively dry-sounding, while the slides in bars 53-54 are drenched in reverb. In a live context, you could duplicate this by setting the reverb on your amp to ‘stun’ and foot-switching the effect on and off as indicated in the music. Alternatively, if you own a multi-FX unit with an assignable expression pedal, you could try using to control the reverb output level (mix) for a smoother transition between off and on.
Having said all this, don’t worry too much about the reverb – ‘Sabre Dance’ is the sort of high-energy party-piece which sounds effective however little signal-processing you use!
It’s a part of Dave Edmunds Sabre Dance sheet music tab.
Through the link below you can download a full transcription of
Sabre Dance with backing track
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