Study, practice, and play; what is the difference and why does it matter? These basic elements and levels to the learning process and how we actualize the experience of performance are important to investigate and understand. In the past I have asked myself “Why isn’t what I’m practicing making it’s way into my playing?” Other times I have played a line and asked “Where did that come from? ” or “Oh, that line again.” These are important questions, but we shouldn’t be to overcritical while playing and address these questions when studying. So what is study? What is practice and what is playing all about? These are questions I will cover in upcoming articles. To begin lets take a brief look at how I view them. Study is the investigation of technical information and the effort to think about ideas and concepts on an intellectual level. This is essentially the life long effort to continually develop a clearer picture of music theory or the nature of sound and how it can relate to our instrument. Practice is the effortful activity of internalizing studied material. This is probably the most difficult and uncomfortable of the three. So we take a small segment of what we have studied and work it out on the instrument by creating a drill or an exercise. We do the activity without really thinking, but rather understanding. This process can consume a lot of mental and physical energy, but the effort is well rewarded. Play or performance is the process of utilizing what is known. This processing is happening very fast and the conscious thinking aspect of mind needs to be minimized or turned off. Here we are applying what we have practiced and pulling from a large library of diverse musical experience, including not only study and practice but also our listening history. This process can be pretty much completely effortless mentally and physically. This is essential the reward for the musician and the listener. These are three fairly distinct areas and are all interconnected within the process of developing as a musician. It may be helpful to view these as separate. Study helps us set up what we practice. Study and practice manifest in improved performance.