In Memoriam: Bill Bartolini

Bill Bartolini

Another music industry titan has left us with the passing of Bill Bartolini. The pickup and electronics pioneer was 84 years old. The Bartolini Pickups Facebook page shared the news.

“With heavy hearts and sadness, we must announce the passing of one of the legends in the musical instrument industry,” they wrote. “An innovator and creator to whom many owe so much. Generous and a mentor, he launched many successful careers over a span of 50 years.”

Before he got into electronics, Bartolini and his wife Patricia studied the science of acoustics, becoming experts. According to NAMM, their publications from the ’60s and ’70s became “standard reference materials on the subject of waveforms and acoustic sound patterns.” Bartolini began creating magnetic pickups in the early ‘60s as part of his research into the acoustics of nylon string instruments.

He began his pickup company under the brand name “Hi-A,” with which he made quadraphonic, hexaphonic, and monophonic designs. In 1978 he changed the label to Bartolini. During this time, he began innovating in the design and testing of pickups by introducing square-wave magnetic pulse testing, the mechanical string picker, and the first preamplified pickup with parametric bandpass enhancement.

Bartolini became famous in the bass world for his pickups, which are still used by so many companies for their instruments. He would retire from the business in 2014. Clyde Clark took up the reigns and has been running Bartolini Pickups & Electronics ever since.

Aside from his incredible designs, he will also be remembered for his support and mentorship in the music community. Social media filled up with tributes to him from builders like Joe Zon, Sheldon Dingwall, Tom Ribbecke, Rob Elrick, and many more. Each of them recounted how Bartolini worked with them to develop the sound of their instruments while they were still fledgling luthiers.

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Bill Bartolini.

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    We have a Bartolini pickup, no surprise as they are really good. So sorry to hear of his passing. Support and hope to his family in their time of loss. We grieve with you.