Skip to main content

Her Name is Ruby

It’s not all in our heads. Sometimes it’s in our guitar.

All the musical instruments in my life have had names. I believe they deserve them. After all, they have souls. We don’t relate to any two guitars the same way. Each casts its own particular spell on us and each brings a unique experience.

Although I’ve had substantial success as a songwriter, I’m really only an adequate musician. In fact, I’m considerably more accomplished on the ivories than the strings. But because I feel more intimately connected to a crowd with a guitar in my hands than I do sitting on a piano bench, I’m always on the lookout for a model that can further my potential or augment my limited abilities.

That’s why I was so excited when, earlier this year, a friend suggested I check out the Yamaha TransAcoustic guitar. With reverb and chorus effects built right into the body — no effects pedal or external gizmos needed — he felt this instrument might offer me that certain “zhoosh” I’m always looking for.

And so, come NAMM®-time, I headed straight over to the Yamaha booth, hopped on a stool and cradled a beautiful red FS-TA model in my arms. With an eager sense of anticipation, I turned the knob for the chorus effect and gave her a whirl. Nice! My sound was thicker — as if someone else were strumming along with me. Then I tried out the reverb. What I heard was ambiance expanded to church-like proportions. Finally, I blended the two effects together. It was like moisturizer on dry skin. I was radiating. My trajectory as a performer was definitely on the rise.

Shelly Peiken holding red FS-TA guitar at NAMM.
Here I am at NAMM, trying out a TA guitar for the first time.

Sold! The guitar arrived in early spring, and I named her Ruby. (What else? ☺)

Shelly Peiken holding red FS-TA guitar.
Ruby arrives!

We debuted our collaboration at a friend’s after-dinner jam where my hopes were confirmed: my presence, it seemed to me, was a little larger than real life. With that, I felt confident she’d be the perfect companion for some upcoming gigs. But alas, something unforeseen happened: all gigs for the foreseeable future (not just for me, but for everybody) were canceled.

Everyone was taking it online. Livestreaming meant there’d be no sound person — just me and my acoustic going direct into a laptop. With her built-in effects, Ruby was going to be absolutely perfect for that.

I played her at a livestream Zoom concert from my living room. I shared her story with the viewers on a She Rocks Spotlight Series, and I featured her at a virtual global birthday party for my clever tech-savvy girlfriend Kristin.

Shelly Peiken playing red FS-TA guitar during Zoom livestream.
Ruby and I livestreaming.

The dual effects opened up a world of possibilities. For example, they allowed a slowed-down version of “What A Girl Wants” to be less pop — more laid back and bluesy. Same girl, different dress. And “Bitch” vibrated with power.

I’ve also spent a lot of my at-home time composing (mostly by myself, since in-person collaboration hasn’t been possible), and thankfully, I find that I have a new muse. In the glow of Ruby’s performance-enhancing pick-me-ups, my writing feels more fluid. Dependably prolific. Even when I’m alone in a room, I inspire myself! I’m still the same songwriter I’ve always been, but I believe I’m better. And believing is an under-rated creative aphrodisiac.

Let’s face it. The more vibe-y our sound, the more confident we are. And getting a boost in confidence can make us feel like we’re standing in the spotlight rather than just blending into the background.

We’re only human. No matter what our level, when our sound is elevated, we’re elevated. When we feel better, we get better. We play better. We write better. It’s not all in our heads. Sometimes it’s in our guitar.

Welcome to my world, Ruby! I look forward to a lasting friendship — one that continues well into the years ahead.

No need for any of Ruby’s effects on this beachside version of “Slow Down the World” — a song I wrote about 18 years ago with my long-time collaborator Guy Roche — and one that seems more relevant now than ever before.


Click here for more information about Yamaha TransAcoustic guitars.

Click here for more information about the Yamaha FS-TA TransAcoustic guitar.

Keep reading