NAMM 2024: “The aim was to be as tonally versatile as possible”: Rabea Massaad on the origins of his long-awaited Ernie Ball Music Man Sabre design – and the crucial refinement that took the most tweaking

Rabea Massaad with his new Ernie Ball Music Man Sabre
(Image credit: Future)

NAMM 2024: One of the biggest releases at this year’s NAMM show came from the Ernie Booth Music Man booth, where the long-awaited Rabea Massaad Sabre signature guitar was finally debuted after months of anticipation.

The guitar is intended to take the classic Strat-style Sabre template to new ergonomic and tonal heights and finally arrived after the Andertons alumni and Stormzy collaborator revealed a signature was in the works back in December.

But though it’s been one of the most talked-about collaborations of the past few months, it turns out the original Sabre prototype came to Massaad as something of a surprise.

“At April NAMM last, I got presented, by my surprise, with a prototype,” Massaad explains to Guitar World in a new interview. “And it was basically a stock Sabre with a custom finish, custom neck carve, and it had the spoon cut carved in all by hand. 

“It was the first attempt at what it could maybe become,” he continues. “And they’d got a pair of my Bare Knuckles and put them in. It was very representative of what it was going to be, but of course being a stock body, it didn’t have the contouring that ended up being on the final version.”

As Massaad goes on to explain, it was in fact the ergonomics of the actual guitar that took the most time to perfect – and, specifically, the neck heel that proved to be the crucial appointment that took the most refinement.

“I’ve got really big chubby hands, and I like 22 fret guitars, and when it’s about getting up to the top [of the fretboard], this is why I always found this very useful,” Massaad says. 

“On the stock Sabres, I’d found that for me it was quite a lot of wood there. It ended up being quite cumbersome for me to try and play licks up here. We did a first revision, and then a second revision, and then it was at that point where I said to [Ernie Ball engineer] Drew, ‘Do you reckon we could make it any thinner?’ 

“And he was like, being that classic engineer, thinking in his head, ‘Structural integrity, structural integrity… I don’t know about that.’”

Though his demands to make the neck heel as thin as possible gave Drew nightmares over compromising said structural integrity, Massaad was ultimately given a guitar that fit his demands perfectly.

“He said it was minor, what he actually took away, but I noticed it immediately,” explains the guitarist.

“Yesterday when I was performing… there was a lick that, on the previous iteration, I kept messing up. But I did it first time yesterday, so that tiny little adjustment made a massive difference.”

That’s not the only standout appointment to be found on the Sabre’s spec sheet. A pair of Massaad’s signature Bare Knuckle Silo pickups, wired to an expansive five-way switch and push/pull coil-splits, also feature. 

“The aim,” summarizes Massaad. “Was to be as tonally versatile as possible”.

To find out more about each new Sabre model – which will be available this Spring – head over to Ernie Ball Music Man.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.

With contributions from