Mandolin Srinivas is perhaps the greatest thing to have happened to Mandolin, for it was he who adapted the instrument to Carnatic classical music, made some structural modifications and introduced ingenious playing techniques to take Mandolin to its present enviable position in music. It would therefore be worthwhile dwelling in sufficient detail on U Srinivas' design in order to fully comprehend the magnitude and enormity of his contribution.
Gamakas (graces), one would agree without doubt, are quite essential to Carnatic music - so much so that, one cannot play Carnatic music without using gamakas. With the original design of the Mandolin, the musician venturing to play Carnatic music on it, faced two major problems:
The presence of pairs of strings made it extremely difficult to render complex gamakas. The sustenance (the time period for which a note would be heard from the time the string is plucked) of the instrument, on the whole, was not sufficient enough (to some extent attributable to the presence of "pairs of strings") to admit slow-tempo compositions. Mandolin Srinivas came up with some modifications which (i) eliminated completely the problem of gamaka rendition, (ii) to a great extent enhanced the sustenance of the instrument, and (iii) enhanced the acoustic range of the instrument.
Mandolin Srinivas (a) chose the electric solid block (Mandolin) as the basis; (b) used single strings instead of pairs, and (c) also added a fifth string (on the suggestion of his father U Satyanarayana), which enhanced the acoustic range of the instrument. As such the acoustic range of the instrument is now three complete octaves and a half octave.
These modifications have opened up gates which were hitherto thought impossible. The inevitable fallout of these modifications is that the Mandolin, in this new design, has lost its characteristic plink-plunk sound (attributable to the pairs of strings) and the playing style of continuous, fast up-down plucking as a means of sustaining notes. But then, in view of the stupendous vistas and the expressing potential opened up by the new design, one is more than pleased to overlook this. Mandolin Srinivas' design of the Mandolin is available with quite a few musical instrument makers in Chennai, India. “ link
I wonder if that was Alexander Palace because I saw them there in December of that year. All I can remember about the evening is Vinegar Joe supporting and Elkie Brooks' legs and the hundreds of paper plates being launched like Frisbees!