Learn how to play five riffs from the progressive rockers’ latest album, Similar Skin.

“Little Gift” Intro

With Similar Skin, we wanted to get back to this bigger rock sound that was a little less intricate and progressive. I wanted to come up with a few riffs that seem to just knock you over with simplicity—like AC/DC with cross rhythms. Growing up, some of my favorite shows were when bands took a “less is more” approach in bigger rooms. This riff harkens back to those feelings I had watching bands like Foreigner or Thin Lizzy—bands with big monstrous riffs. Plus, I wanted to get away from that crazy articulation that always seems to run through our music. “Little Gifts” was our shot at getting back to that arena-rock feel. It’s got some cool syncopation with the upstrokes, though for the most part, it’s a big simple riff that everyone plays together. I’d written this a couple of years ago, so it was intended for what became Similar Skin. Instead of writing across the board and having too many songs to plow through, we wanted to focus on what sound we’re going for. “Little Gift” was one of the first ones.

“Bridgeless” Interlude

This song has been in our book for about seven years. We recorded it because I think it tied into the heavier approach of the record. Umphrey’s is definitely a progressive rock-flavored band, and if we didn’t have any of that on the record people might be scratching their head a bit. Also, it’s great to end the record with this bombastic, riff-heavy tune with all these little intricate parts. The interlude here is kind of like a Steve Howe thing—lots of open strings and quick position shifts. When everyone played the riff together, it was like “Whoa, we got something here.” It illustrates the beauty of being different players and the way Brendan interprets a riff. If I wrote the riff, he has to interpret it and come up with something that sits nicely inside of it. It’s the stylistic differences that really humanize everything—it’s not so cold and calculated with exactly perfect harmonies. There’s a little bit of space to move inside that melody. For some bands, that doesn’t work, but that’s one of our go-to magic tricks. “Bridgeless” is definitely one of the tougher tunes in our book.

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