"It's a nuclear violin": Yngwie Malmsteen gives us the Strat history lesson with his guitar collection that we didn't know we needed

Yngwie Malmsteen
(Image credit: Fender)

The latest Strat Sessions video from Fender has unleashed the fury; it's Yngwie Malmsteen. A man who did things with what he calls the "nuclear violin" that nobody thought possible before, and has stuck with it for decades. 

We get to see his March 1954 Strat – a handmade example that Malmsteen says predates the launch of October examples by six months. This would make it a preproduction/artist model sold to players directly from the factory.

All these things are taken for granted now, but this was brand new

Malmsteen is clearly still in awe of his muse. "This tremolo whammy system is still unsurpassed," he tells us. "No one ever made a better one."

The six-a-side headstock, three-pickups – "All these things are taken for granted now, but this was brand new," notes the Super Swede. The virtuoso does a great job of giving us an overview of the Strat's evolution via the stunning examples of his personal collection – including his incredibly rare custom colour '63 Strat in Shoreline Gold. 

Then there's possibly the most dramatic deviation from Fender's blueprint: scalloped frets.  "In the early '70s there was lacquer on the fretboard that was really thick," notes modder Malmsteen. "I used to sand that off and eventually start carving it out because you get a better grip on the string."

By 1986 Malmsteen was very much on Fender's radar and approached him about a signature model. The company was initially reluctant to incorporate the guitarist's scalloped modifications, something Malmsteen understandably saw as pretty central to the idea of an artist model.

They relented, and Malmsteen even got them to put his name on the front of the headstock. The guitarist recorded the solo for Heaven Tonight from his 1988 album Odyssesy immediately after taking delivery of the first signature model – "Without changing strings, nothing," notes the guitarist. "To this day, I'm so excited about that and so honoured."  

You've got to remember, "70 years ago this was very futuristic – it's a futuristic design now," he says of the Strat. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.