Interview: Guitarist Scott Rolaf Talks About His Signature Benson SR62 Pickups

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“I know the wheel already exists, but to me the wheel was flat.”

Earlier this month, TheToneKing.com told the world about a great little custom pickup manufacturer called Benson Custom Pickups. In addition to offering quality pickups, Benson Custom encourages guitarists to work with the company to craft the pickup of their dreams.  So what better way to explore the ins and outs of developing your own Benson Custom pickup than talking to a pro who did just that?

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In his 35-plus year career, Scott Rolaf has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry.  As an in-demand session player, he’s cut tracks for hip hop artists and national advertising spots, and in 2009 Rolaf joined bass virtuoso Muzz Skillings and one-time Deep Purple vocalist Joe Lynn Turner on stage to raise money for the young burn victims.  In 2012, Rolaf teamed up with Grammy-winning audio engineer Dave Kowalski for the Rolaf Kowalski Project.  RKP is getting ready to bestow upon the world some new tunes in the classic rock and blues vein, so be on the lookout for those cuts soon.  Rolaf has also assembled a great live act called Dirty Power, with Jack and Paul Ciraolo, Tom Pepe, Denice Takach, and John DeVita.  Dirty Power is based in New Jersey, so if you’re in or around the Garden State, definitely keep an eye out for them.

It’s that extensive musical knowledge and experience that Rolaf has poured into his Benson Custom Pickups SR62 signature humbucking pickup set.

“What I was trying to capture was that Pagey-type uncompressed tone that, to me, is one of the hardest tones to recreate,” said Rolaf.  “I wanted to hear subtle changes in wire wraps until it was dead-on; not too hot and not too weak.”

 

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As The Tone King notes in his video review linked above, Rolaf’s tonal prescription ended up calling for a pickup design that is actually lower in output, just like a classic PAF humbucker.

“The hardest sound to achieve is that vintage classic ’60s/’70s vibe, where you have to really dig in to get that attack or bite from your guitar, or simply roll the volume back to play open twangy chords.  That’s natural dynamics, where as the active or passive 14k pickups are ready to explode if you dig in,” Rolaf said.   “With those, there is a tone I refer to as ‘flobbery’, similar to the sound of your pickups being too close to the strings  In my opinion, just too hot.”

Listening to TTK’s review, it’s evident that Rolaf achieved his goal.  The SR62 pickups exhibit the open, blooming sparkle and articulation that defines the classic PAF sound.  The AlNiCo 5 magnets, 42 gauge Formvar wire and low resistance specs all play an important role in conjuring the sound of the humbuckers that powered many classic tracks from Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Peter Green, and Jimmy Page.  And now, thanks to Scott Rolaf, guitar players everywhere have access to a quality, hand-built set to help them achieve those same magical tones.

“I am that guy that enjoys creating writing playing, the labor of love,” Rolaf said.  “This is something I am very passionate about, and [I wanted] to simply give an option I feel was not available, at least to my ears, to that guy who wants something very, very close to that tone.”

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