This is a beautiful example and guide to learning your tools. In this video he walks us through a variety of pastels (soft, hard and pencil) showing us the differences between the three.
With any artistic endeavor, it is important to play around with the tools you will be using. Learn what they are capable of and how they work (or don't work) for you! Any time I get a new set of brushes or paints, crayons or pastels, I take a day or two to just learn what I can do with them. How they blend, the shapes they can create, and even how they react differently to different papers and canvas types. I find it is quite an adventure to do this! The techniques that I assume will be simple rarely prove to be so, and many times I stumble upon a new way of utilizing the new tools that I had no idea could be done.
So, have fun with it. Take the time to discover a new tool and don't be afraid to try whatever comes to mind.