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I'm trying to learn a Japanese instrument called the Kokyuu (here, on the right), but I'm not sure if I should press the strings all the way against the neck, I was wondering if someone could help me think this one out? I can't tell what characteristic the notes in the linked video have, but I do know that I can make notes just by touching the string at a certain position- but I believe that creates overtones which might not be part of the traditional playing style. I was wondering if anyone could provide insight as to whether or not it would make sense to press the string all the way down, and also whether or not the linked video looks/sounds like the player is pressing the strings all the way down.

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My guess is that she is pressing the string down- especially since she does vibrato sometimes. On guitar (or most string instruments) you usually hold the string down but you can also play harmonics but just touching the string in the right places and plucking/bowing (these are probably the overtones you are getting). – Charles Oct 14 '14 at 8:37
Take a lesson from someone who knows how to play the instrument. You won't regret it. – Carl Witthoft Oct 14 '14 at 13:27
@CarlWitthoft I would, I don't exactly know where to find Kokyuu players though. I think they're kind of rare, escpecially outside of Japan. – user12838 Oct 14 '14 at 17:51
As with other stringed instruments, you can generate "natural harmonics" by gently placing your finger at the appropriate places. – Dave Oct 15 '14 at 15:40
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I did some research on this and found some very strong indicators that the string is indeed pressed against the fingerboard.

The most convincing point is offered in this book on composing for japanese instruments. The chapter on the Kokyu starts at p.112 and likens many techniqual aspects of playing to the Shamisen, where the strings do indeed touch the fingerboard.

p.121 even has a paragraph on the technique of 'kokiotoshi', that goes a bit more into left hand technique and includes strong hints that the strings are indeed pressed down against the fingerboard.

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