There are several words that seem to be related to playing musical instruments (specifically 演奏, 弹 and 奏), and I would appreciate an elaboration on the nuances between them. Are some used in specific cases where others do not apply?
演奏 (yǎn zòu) to play a musical instrument in a performance
弹 (tan1) to play sth by hand, sometimes roughly equivalent to "pluck"
弹钢琴 (tan1 gang1qin2) to play the piano
弹琵琶 (tan1 pi2pa) to play the pi2pa
拉 (la1) to pull; to play an instrument, usually with a bow
拉二胡 (la1 er4hu2) to play the er4hu2
拉小提琴 (la1 xiao3ti2qin2) to play the violin
吹 (chui1) to play sth by mouth
吹小号 (chui1 xiao3hao4) to play the trumpet
Unrelated but funny:
吹牛 (chui1 niu2) lit. "to blow the cow"; to brag/boast/talk big
奏乐 play music for the padshah in ancient times，but not now
奏 a team（ or one） play a musical instrument in a performance On formal occasions
演奏 tends to be used in English as the equivalent of 'perform'. If you were practicing in a room by yourself, you wouldn't use it. While English only uses the word 'play' to refer to playing an instrument, in Chinese, 'play' changes depending on the type of instrument. 弹 would be used for the piano. I'm not 100% sure, but I think 弹 is also used for plucked string instruments such as the zither. Instruments you blow through (eg clarinet, flute) would use 吹, literally, to blow. String instruments you play with a bow like a violin or the 二胡 would use 拉 (to pull), referring to pulling the bow. For instruments you strike such as a drum, you would use 敲.
I think a simple way to distinguish the three is that 演奏 can be intransitive and transitive. and when transitive, its object is normally 'a piece of music', e.g 演奏乐曲, whereas 弹 and 奏 in the sense of playing and performing, they are transitive. The objects of 弹 are usually instruments such as piano, e.g. 弹琴 but one can also say 弹一首歌, which implicates play a song with piano (so I suppose 弹 is strongly associated with keyboard instrument). 奏 often has pieces of music or melody as objects, e.g. 奏乐，奏曲. Also regarding register, 奏 sounds more literary and has a feeling of antiquity.