Eddie Freeman Special

The Selmer ‘Eddie Freeman Special’

EddieFreemanSpecialPoster

The tenor guitar was designed in 1932 by well-known genius, inventor and classical musician, Mario Maccaferri, for Selmer, the Parisian band instrument company. The guitar was called the grand Modele Quatre Cortes, the grand 4-string model, best used to accompany voice or for solo instrumental harmonies.

OriginalEFS&CaseThis guitar was developed to transition tenor banjo players to guitar in the 1930s in London. Banjo players could make the change relatively effortlessly by going from a 4-string tenor banjo to the 4-tring design of the Grand Modele Quatre Cortes guitar.

This early Maccaferri was considered a prototypical model guitar. The Eddie Freeman version guitar was built without an internal sound chamber. The guitar also had a different shape headstock as well as a change in the rosette design. One of the most apparent design changes was in Eddie Freeman Special

This Selmer Maccaferri has an early serial number and has the Mario Maccaferri patent stamp on the headstock. The spruce top is split with a hatchet to induce the natural strength of the wood for stability purposes. The back and sides are laminated rosewood. The neck has a non-adjustable, aluminium truss rod and the guitar has a French polish finish and gold plated hardware.


EdFreemanPlanSelmer Eddie Freeman Special 4 String Guitar Plan
The EFS had been designed by English tenor banjoist Eddie Freeman to have a better six string guitar sonority for jazz and dance band rhythm guitar work than the normal tenor guitar with its very high A string. However, it was still tuned CGDA so that it could be played by tenor banjoists.

Originally conceived by Freeman as a hybrid instrument sitting somewhere between the banjo and guitar. Selmer produced this ill-fated instrument in the 1930s.
The Freeman is basically a D-hole but with a full scale four string neck, only 32mm at the nut.

The feel is similar to banjo but the sound is all guitar, very punchy when tuned to the middle four strings of the standard guitar (A D G B) – It can be tuned as a plectrum banjo (C G B D) or the alleged Freeman tuning (C,G,D,A, this being the most likely, as reported in Francois Charle’s book) which ever tuning is used, it still produces a strong pounding rhythm ideal for any acoustic ensemble.

EddieFreemanSelmerMaccaferri heavily promoted the EFS guitar through the Melody Maker and Eddie Freeman even wrote a special tune for it called ‘In All Sincerity’. There are also promotional photos of the well known British singer, banjoist and guitarist Al Bowlly, playing the Eddie Freeman Special and it can be seen in use by Ray Noble’s guitarist in a recording session photo of his orchestra. This guitar, unfortunately, was not commercially successful in the 1930s, possibly due to concerted resistance by the British six-string guitar fraternity, particularly Ivor Mairants. Many were subsequently converted to much more valuable six-string models because of the Django Reinhardt connection. Originals of the Eddie Freeman Special are now very rare and are consequently highly valuable. Christies sold one for £5000.

One of the reasons why many jazz guitarists used to prefer four-stringed tenor and plectrum guitars was that they seldom played more than four note “inner chords” so they didn’t really need the first and sixth strings.

This is not a novelty instrument but a guitar design that really works, perhaps Eddie Freeman’s day may yet come after all.


The 2 main 4 string models offered by Selmer included a regular tenor guitar, with a 23 inch scale length, tuned CGDA, and the Eddie Freeman Special, with a larger body and a longer scale length, using a re-entrant CGDA tuning. The Eddie Freeman Special had been designed by English tenor banjoist Eddie Freeman to have a better 6 string guitar sonority for rhythm guitar work than the normal tenor guitar with its very high A string. However, it was still tuned CGDA so that it could still be played by tenor banjoists.

The Eddie Freeman Special was based on a six string model and it had a larger six string body and a six string scale length of 25.25 inches, rather than the tenor’s smaller body and normal 23 inch scale length. The CGDA tuning used was re-entrant with the C and D tuned in the same octave and the G and the A tuned in the same octave, lowering the overall tone. The tuning and scale length give this very unusual four string guitar a sonority that is very close to that of the six string guitar, compared to a regular tenor guitar.

AlBowllyEFSThere are also promotional photos of the well known British singer, banjoist and guitarist Al Bowlly, playing the Eddie Freeman Special and it can be seen in use by Ray Noble’s guitarist in a recording session photo of his orchestra.

Al Bowlly with Eddie Freeman Special Maccaferri Guitar.

This guitar, unfortunately, was not commercially successful in the 1930s, possibly due to concerted resistance by the British six-string guitar fraternity, particularly Ivor Mairants. Many were subsequently converted to much more valuable six-string models because of the Django Reinhardt connection. Originals of the Eddie Freeman Special are now very rare and are consequently highly valuable.

EdFreemanTenorEFS-Headstock

Selmer ‘Eddie Freeman’
Originally conceived by dance band guitarist Edward Freeman as a hybrid instrument sitting somewhere between the banjo and guitar. Selmer produced this ill-fated instrument in the 1930s. What the late Luthier D J Hodson did was to revived the design to offer an alternative to the standard tenor specification guitar that he also produced. The Freeman is basically a D-hole 503 but with a full scale four string neck, only 32mm at the nut.

The feel is similar to banjo but the sound is all guitar, very punchy when tuned to the middle four strings of the standard guitar (A D G B) – a some prefer to tune. It can be tuned as a plectrum banjo (C G B D) or the alleged Freeman tuning (C,G,D,A, this being the most likely, as reported in Francois Charle’s book) which ever tuning is used, it still produces a strong pounding rhythm ideal for any acoustic ensemble. This is not a novelty instrument but a guitar design that really works, perhaps Mr Freeman’s day will yet come after all.

EdFreemanMelodyMaker53EddieFreemanComp

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