Selmer & Mario Maccaferri

Many Italian luthiers settled in France during the 1930’s bringing with them their instrument making skills and offering a fresh and potent influence on French luthiery. Although this Franco-Italian school of guitar making included other makers, the Selmer guitars created by Mario Maccaferri remain the most remarkable and enduringly popular example. He introduced many new features like the internal resonator, the reinforced neck, the sealed tuning machines and the cutaway upper bout.

Two periods mark the Selmer’s guitar history. The first was the period of their creation, in 1932 and 1933, under the direction of Mario Maccaferri (read more about Mario Maccaferri). The second period commences after Maccaferri’s departure in 1934, and is marked by the advent of Selmer’s best known model featuring a much smaller vertical, oval sound hole. This period extends until 1952, when Selmers seased guitar production. The first period guitars are referred to as ‘Selmer Maccaferri’and the second period instruments are know simply as ‘Selmer’guitars
Though quickly embraced by numerous guitarists of the era, Selmer guitars were ultimately popularized by Django Reinhardt (read more about Django Reinhardt) Using little other than Selmers from 1933 until his death in 1953, Django created a style of unequalled expressiveness. Because of this musical brilliance and romantic charisma, anecdotes of Django and his guitars abound. It would be safe to say that Django owned several Selmers guitars. If we speculate that he was searching for the right guitar, Django must have ended his pursuit in 1940 when he received ‘Modele Jazz’ #503. Though it can be deduced from a wealth of photographs that # 503 was not his first oval-hole Selmer, it was certainly the one he played for the rest of his life. Django preferred the later oval-hole, but his brother Joseph always played rhythm on the earlier D-hole model. To this day, the D hole is perceived as being preferable for rhythm playing. Less than 1000 Selmers were made between 1932 and 1952. Of these, barely half might have been “Modele Jazz” oval hole guitars.

Selmer offered six basic models:

  • Le modele Hawaienne
  • Le modele Espagnol
  • Le modele Concert
  • Le model Orchestre
  • Le modele tenor 4 cordes
  • Le modele Jazz

> The late Selmer period

The ‘second epoch’of Selmer guitars began during 1934. Though only one revised model was actually offered, it embraced several variations. The modele Jazz from the second epoch has the following new characterictics:

  • the internal resonator was abandoned
  • the small oval sound-hole replaced the large D-hole
  • the scale length was extended from 64 cm to 67 cm
  • the neck length was altered to accommodate 14 frets clear of the body
  • the finger board was narrowed to 44 mm at the nut and 57 mm at the body join
  • the top bracing was changed from 4 to 5 braces

Most other characteristics, such as headstock shape, body shape and dimensions, and so on remained unchanged.

Reference documentation:
“The story of France’s Premier Guitars Builder” by Francois Charle and Paul Hostetter