First Act Custom Shop 12-String Basses

Beginning with a line of starter guitars sold in Wal-Mart stores across the country, First Act believed that they could keep players of all skill levels on board if they continued to improve the quality of their instruments all the way up to the professional level. First Act launched three separate lines - children’s toys, standard production models, and custom shop guitars - all marketed under the First Act name. (Editor’s note: This is called Line Extension and it doesn’t work - see our article on Hamer’s Final Demise.)

In 2002, First Act lured master luthier Kelly Butler away from the Gibson custom shop to create their own custom shop near Boston, Massachusetts. In 2005 they opened the First Act Guitar Studio on Boylston Street in the heart of Boston's popular Back Bay area.

The First Act Custom Shop built guitars for pro players such as Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick), Adam Levine (Maroon 5), Brad Whitford (Aerosmith), Ginger (Wildhearts), Martin Gore (Depeche Mode) and Michael Sweet (Stryper).

The first First Act custom shop 12-string bass was created as a collaborative effort between Philip Snyder and Kelly Butler, who assigned the actual building of the bass to Bill Jancar. The bass took a full year to build, mostly because the bass was built in between other projects. The asking price of a custom 12-string bass from First Act started at $3,200.00 with any special features costing extra.

Very few First Act 12’s ended up being built, our best guess is between five and no more than ten. Within a short few years the custom shop was shut down, then in 2016 First Act was acquired by the toy manufacturer Jazwares.

2008 First Act custom Reverse Delgada style 12-string bass in the Pelham Blue finish.

Bill Jancar putting the Reverse Delgada 12-string bass through its paces.

This bass has three Lace Alumitone "Aluma 90" pickups. Each pickup has its own On / Off switch as well as a designated volume and tone control for maximum tonal versatility. The tuners are Gotoh GB7 bass tuners, Gotoh midsize 510 guitar tuners and Gotoh Mini 510 guitar tuners.

The bass is 32" medium scale. It has a bound neck and headstock. The fingerboard has the "circling sharks" inlays. Dual truss rods. 8-saddle bridge.

The neck width at the nut is 1.9" and is 2.1" wide at the 12th fret. Neck thickness behind the 1st fret is .84" and .95" behind the 12th fret.

Headstock of the First Act Reverse Delgada 12-string bass.


2010 First Act custom shop 12-string bass built for High On Fire bassist Jeff Matz.

Jeff Matz at home.

This 12-string bass has a three-pickup configuration consisting of Kent Armstrong humbuckers and P-Bass style pickups. Stereo jacks, one for the humbuckers, one for the P-Bass pickups, and a switch to make it mono out of one jack. It is tuned to C and the higher six strings are tuned to chords.

Jeff Matz on stage with his First Act 12-string bass.