JEFF SHATTUCK MUSIC

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The Bridges of SF County.

Every guitar – every stringed instrument, in fact – has a bridge. It’s usually made of metal on electric instruments, and usually wood on acoustic, but on all it serves the same function: to help align the strings properly and keep them at a playable height above the fret-board.

To me, however, the bridge is much more. When I first got an electric guitar, a Les Paul (in the upper right of the photo), the bridge was the most fascinating part. It was the most intricate, but clearly so simple in function, that it seemed to be a contradiction. After all, how could so many screws and metal bits be required to align and raise six little strings? It was also the part I was most nervous about messing with. Sure, the height adjustment seemed to be simple enough and each string saddle was clearly movable via a teensy allen screw. But what was the right height? Where should the saddle sit?

Most important, the bridge is the guitar equivalent of the human naval, if one takes the term naval gazing literally, namely: to stare at one’s belly button and think. Naval gazing is the most common activity in advertising -- my once, current and probably future trade, if the music thing fails – and when I write songs, I naval gaze deeply, except what I stare at most, when I’m not looking at my left hand, is the bridge of the guitar.

A guitar bridge is short, but the distance one can travel along it is infinite. As are the places one can go. And every bridge on every guitar I own has been traveled across countless times, as I seek songs. And no matter how many times I make the journey, I can make it again and have a different experience. Sometimes I end up in the river, wet, cold, silent. But mostly I get somewhere, a riff, a chord sequence, a rhythm. And either way, I always want to make the journey again.