Superstrat (sometimes spelled as super strat or super-strat) is a name for an electric guitar design that resembles a Fender Stratocaster but with differences that clearly distinguish it from a standard Stratocaster, usually to cater to a different playing style. Differences typically (but not necessarily) include more pointed, aggressive-looking body and neck shapes, different tonewoods, increased number of frets, and usage of humbucking pickups, and Floyd Rose tremolo systems. [cite book
title = The Cut the Crap! Guide to the Guitar
first = Gary
last = Marshall
year = 2004
publisher = Artemis Music Ltd
isbn = 1904411231
pages = p117
] cite book
title = 50 Years of Fender
first = Tony
last = Bacon
isbn = 0879306211
year = 2000
publisher = Backbeat Books
pages = p94
] cite journal
title = Stratospheric Variations: A History of offset double-cut guitars
first = Michael
last = Wright
month = March & July
year = 2002
journal = Vintage Guitar Magazine
url =
] .

There is no formal definition of a superstrat; the categorisation is still largely left to popular opinion and depends greatly on the artist(s) associated with a particular model and how it is marketed. Superstrats are generally suited for heavy metal music played with high-gain distortion.


Genesis, custom modifications

With an emerging revolution in heavy metal music during the early 1980s, guitarists began seeking out guitars more suited to the new style, both in terms of looks (more "pointy" aggressive designs) and playability (ease of playing and fatter tone that sounds good with hi-gain amplification). Guitarists such as Ritchie Blackmore, Uli Jon Roth and Dave Murray had used Fender Stratocasters, but each had made modifications to his instrument to suit his individual playing style.

Eddie Van Halen was the first to gain fame using a guitar with superstrat characteristics. He had assembled the Linn Ellsworth Stratocaster body with a thin, 22-fret neck (also from Linn Ellsworth) and a Gibson PAF humbucker in the bridge slot. This guitar, known as the "Frankenstrat" was pictured on Van Halen's debut album "Van Halen". It was later repainted with a top coat of red, and has had different humbucker pickups over the years, some of them custom-wound.cite book
first = Paul
last = Trynka
title = The Electric Guitar: An Illustrated History
location = San Francisco
year = 1995
pages = p104
isbn = 0811808637

Many other guitarists and luthiers also applied similar custom modifications to their instruments. Many sources cite Grover Jackson as one of the first (and most influential) guitar makers to have crafted custom shop guitars with all the features of superstrats, doing so as early as 1981cite web
title = Jackson Soloist Custom
url =
] cite book
title = 50 Years of the Gibson Les Paul: Half a Century of the Greatest Electric Guitars
first = Tony
last = Bacon
isbn = 0879307110
publisher = Backbeat Books
year = 2002
pages = p92-93
] . Later all these improvements were integrated in factory-produced Jackson Soloist model.

Mass production

Since about 1983-1984, companies such as Kramercite book
title = Guitar Cultures
first = Andy
last = Bennett
coauthors = Dawe, Kevin
year = 2001
publisher = Berg Publishers
isbn = 1859734340
pages = p126
] , Jackson, Charvel, Yamaha, Aria, Ibanez and Hamer started mass production of superstrat design guitars due to growing market demand. Rising popularity of heavy metal music led to a whole new generation of guitar virtuosos that employed fast and complex techniques which demanded thinner and more versatile guitar necks and stable tremolo systems. It's debatable who was the first to mass-produce the superstrat, mostly because the lack of precise definition. Following examples are usually cited by guitar historians:

* Kramer Baretta (1983-1991) — an early guitar with Floyd Rose, one slanted humbucker, but more traditional neck and body contours. Baretta has a close connection to Van Halen's Frankenstrat - it was designed to be marketed as Van Halen's signature model, but, in the outcome, Eddie had never endorsed the Baretta in terms of playing it on stage. [cite web
url =
title = The Kramer Baretta
— history and collector's guide at
* Dean Bel Aire (1983-1984) — an early SSH guitar dubbed "superstrat"cite book
title = Blue Book of Electric Guitars
first = Zachary R.
last = Fjestad
year = 2006
publisher = Blue Book Publications
isbn = 1886768641
pages = p225, p228
] (however, it's still with bolt-on neck, 22 frets and vintage tremolo).
* Jackson Soloist (officially produced since August 28, 1984cite web
title = Jackson Soloists 1984-1988
author = Jim Shine
url =
— includes copies of Jackson factory logs from Jackson Museum] ) — SSH guitar with neck-through body, 24 frets and Floyd Rose/Kahler bridge — the fullest pack of Superstrat features to date in mass-produced guitar, considered by many the first "real" superstrat.

During the rest of 1980s, due to huge marketing success, most guitar companies had at least one model of superstrat in mass production.

Answer from major guitar manufacturers

Superstrat trend could not pass unnoticed by two major guitar manufacturers, Fender and Gibson.

Fender suffered complications after being controlled by CBS in late 1970s and early 1980s. It was only in 1985 when Fender employees raised funds and purchased the company back from CBS, in a campaign initiated by then CBS Musical Instruments division president William Schultz. Due to these complications, Fender's answer to superstrats was generally unsuccessful and somewhat delayed.

* Fender Contemporary Stratocaster Japan [] (1984-1987)
* Fender Performer [] (1985-1986)
* Fender HM Strat [] (1988-1992)
* Fender Prodigy [] (1991-1993)
* Fender Showmaster (1998-)

Gibson traditionally competed against the Stratocaster design by offering radically different flagship designs, such as Les Paul and SG that used very different body shapes, tonewoods, humbucker pickup construction, fixed bridge, yielding a sound radically different from Stratocaster's. However, the marketing hype was so high that Gibson also tried to join in with several models. As with Fender, these models weren't particularly successful commercially and came somewhat late:

* Gibson WRC (1985-1986)
* Gibson U-2 (1987-1992)
* Gibson Q series
* Gibson M-III (1991-1994)

End of superstrat era

In early and mid-1990s, heavy metal and particularly shredding suffered popularity decline, in favor of grunge, nu metal, alternative metal and other styles. Popularity of superstrats also declined, in favor of guitars more suited to these new styles. Lots of companies that relied on superstrats as major part of their target market suffered heavy losses and went out of business or were bought by larger corporations:

* Guild went out of solid-body guitars business in 1988. Only hollow-body instruments are still manufactured under Guild brand after its acquisition by Fender in 1995 [cite web
title = Guild Official Site: Guild History
url =
] .
* Hamer was acquired by Kaman Music Corporation in 1988cite journal
url =
title = The History of Hamer, Part One
author = M. Wright
coauthors = A. Large, S. Matthes, P. Fung
journal = Vintage Guitars Magazine
month = June
year = 2000
] , which in turn was acquired by Fender in 2008. As of 2008, Hamer reduced their superstrat selection to just one model, the "Californian" [ [ Hamer Californian] ] .
* Dean was sold to Tropical Music in 1990. Superstrat production was resumed by its new owner in Korea.
* Kramer went bankrupt in 1990 and was sold to Gibson since the early 1990s.
* Jackson and Charvel brands were bought by Fender in 2002 [cite web
title = Charvel Official Site: The Charvel Story
url =
] .
* Ibanez suffered heavy losses in 1991-1993 and had to undergo a major restructuring of model lineup, adding such series as GR ("Ghostrider"), Blazer, TC ("Talman"), RT (from "Retro") guitars, TR (from "Traditional") and ATK basses. Older Iceman model and even forgotten Ibanez Gibraltar bridge were resurrected as part of "vintage" followup. This restructuring kept company afloat and tweaking its image as "metal guitar only company" to more customer-appealing one.cite book
first = Paul
last = Specht
title = Ibanez: The Untold Story
chapter = Third Decade: Shred is Dead
url =
year = 2005

Modern times

Despite all these changes, as of 2008, a lot of guitar manufacturers continue to produce superstrats. Some superstrats evolved to be used in new popular rock styles, for example, Ibanez produced several 7-string guitars (such as Ibanez K7, a Korn signature guitar series), catered for playing nu metal / alternative metal with additional low A string, followed by 8-string models such as the Meshuggah-endorsed RG2228GK featuring an extra low F# string.

Most major guitar manufacturers have at least one superstrat in their electric guitar product lineup. Almost all available superstrats roughly can be divided in either arch-top or flat-top superstrats. The following table gives an overview of available series at major manufacturers, as of 2008 (note that it includes only major series and does not include any artist signature series or custom shop guitars).


imilar designs, names and trademarks

Stratocaster design was a subject of copy and slight enhancements since its introduction in 1950s. Many manufacturers produced guitars very similar to Stratocasters, usually referred to as Strat copies (it can't be legally called "Stratocaster copy", because "Stratocaster" was trademarked by Fender. Conversely, the superstrat design changed a lot of things (radical body shapes with sleek offset pointed cutaways, active or passive electronics, flatter 24-fret necks, locking tremolo bridges, a wide variety of humbucking and single-coil pickup configurations and enhanced pickup switching) hence superstrats are usually not considered "Strat copies" but a separate category of guitars.

There is a design similar to superstrat concept named Fat Strat. The term was introduced by Fender itself in 1997-1998cite book
title = 50 Years of Fender
first = Tony
last = Bacon
isbn = 0879306211
year = 2000
publisher = Backbeat Books
pages = p123
] and it is a Fender trademark. Generally, Fat Strat only specifically refers to a Stratocaster with a hot humbucking pickup in the bridge position while a superstrat will typically have other traits such as a 24-fret neck and a locking tremolo. A Fat Strat is usually closer to a traditional Stratocaster in those respects.

Note that "superstrat" is a subjective concept of adapting the Stratocaster design to be more suited for certain genres of music, and are not necessarily higher-end or more capable Stratocasters. The Fender Showmaster series, for example, is made by Fender itself but marketed as a separate guitar line. The American Deluxe Stratocaster HSS and the American Special Strat HSS exhibit many of the traits normally associated with a superstrat, such as a universal HSH pickup rout, Fender DH-1 humbucking pickups, Floyd Rose Original and Fender Deluxe locking synchronized bridges with LSR roller and genuine Floyd Rose locking nuts, as well as Schaller locking and traditional Kluson tuning machines on certain models (discontinued in 2007 and 2003), but they are not generally considered to be superstrats, rather high-end Stratocaster models. Fender produces Stratocaster pickguards specially routed for HSH pickups.

ee also

*Fat Strat
*Strat copy


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