Musiskills are things you need to be able to do in order to join in with music making.
They aren't the performing skills – like playing an instrument or singing. They lie underneath those. They help you make sense of music notation if you want to learn that.
They underpin the two dimensions of music; rhythm, which moves horizontally through time, and pitch, moving through the virtual vertical space of higher and lower notes. Once you can work with each dimension separately, you can get into combining them.
The fundamental skill of rhythm is being able to keep a steady beat. That sounds very simple and it is easy for just about everyone if that is all you are having to think about.
To be confident making music, though, you need to be able to have that beat ticking away inside while you sing or play. It's the way musicians keep together. Everyone is sensing the same beat and relating what they are doing to it. Installing your inner metronome can be harder. It has to keep ticking away whatever is happening round it. In order to develop it, you need to practise doing two things at once. At the most basic level, this is a matter of singing a simple song (or chanting a rhyme) while clapping or tapping the beat. That's the most straightforward because you sing on automatic pilot (it needs to be a really simple song) and you can think about the beat.
You develop this fundamental co-ordination skill by depending less on automatic pilot. Clapping the rhythm of the song takes more concentration than singing it. Counting the beats as you clap the rhythm takes more still.
The fundamental skill of pitch is being able to sing a few related notes in tune with each other. By starting with a limited set of pitches, and moving from one to another with thought, you can start to develop your own pitch ladder. Once you have a reliable internalised ladder you will be a more secure performer and, if you want to read music, you'll find it easier.
Most of the music we enjoy listening to and making is in several parts. Different notes combine, making up chords, and patterns overlay each other. It can be distracting to be in the middle of it all and you can feel you are losing track of your own part. Then it is tempting to try to blank out the other parts.
An important skill is being able to do two things in music simultaneously yourself. The better you can do two related things yourself, the better you will be at being able to combine your musical line with someone else's when you are making music together. You have trained your brain to cope with two things at once. At the most basic level, you'll be able to keep in time with someone else. You are laying the foundations for aligning much more in the music - balancing and blending your sounds and really making the music expressive. When you are listening to music, you can notice and enjoy a lot more if you can be aware of the different strands combining.
Pianists learn to do two or more things at the same time early on. Guitarists who accompany themselves as they sing are exercising that skill. Musiskills offer you challenges for which you need no more than your voice and a pair of hands.
Musiskills to download
Musiskills that are part of Learning Collection 1: Getting Started with Frère Jacques and Friends
(click on the links to download a PDF to your computer)