“Musicianship” – How To Train Your DNA

Gregg Goldston in “Digits”

As assignments, with not only a friendly smile but also artistic pressure, Gregg Goldston has handed me countless number of songs since I started training with him 13 years ago. I now understand that it has been his long-term DNA project for my “Musicianship” development.

What we mean by the term DNA, is a person’s natural sense of timing, rhythm, or musicality. We all have a certain timing in our brain based on our upbringing, culture, and/or style of music we listen to.

Gregg realized around 25-years into his career, that by listening to new styles of music “constantly,” his rhythm and timing on stage had changed…without him even realizing it! He then tested this discovery on me for several years and once we saw how it had affected my work too, it became one of our most essential teaching methods to transform out students’ performances.

Those were probably about a hundred CDs beside hundreds of songs directly copied to my computer. A wide variety with always some least expected, I mean surprising, type of music I had never chosen to listen to before.

Sometimes, he made me listen to 60’s Rock and Roll and told me to memorize every phrase, then Jazz, Blues, a bunch of Bossa Nova, even Japanese songs I didn’t know of were handed by him. “Listen to these and stretch your phrasing”.

Back then, I had no idea where I was going. I only trusted his guidance, and intuitively followed those unknown paths.

Gregg has been always searching for new unfamiliar music to us. And told me to do the same mime play with different kinds of songs. Bobby McFerrin pushed me to move fast and square. Stephane Grappelli lead me to long colorful phrases. Jeff Beck showed me the possibility to change the pitch and intensity between notes… Slowly, I learned to like this new vulnerable feeling, which was mysterious and fascinating for me.

I can tell you clearly that without my I-Pod, which I “now” literary live, walk and sometimes even sleep with, my career would have never seen the future it has now.

This is how Gregg Goldston trains his students including myself.

1) Training your own DNA

Listen to certain songs that train and widen the range of your rhythms. The
GMI provides our students a playlist to listen to. Those songs are somewhat unfamiliar to you, therefore uncomfortable to listen to first, because that stimulates your untouched zone of musicality.

Most people feel comfortable listening to flat-line tunes. But everyone in your audience gets bored when you flat-line on stage… Consequently, we rarely include slow classical in our list, except for songs we use for lyrical acting training.

Replace your playlist with The GMI playlist. Listen to them over and over until you start humming the songs unconsciously. You will soon notice your newly developed capacity will create a broader texture of rhythms in your performance that never wants to flat-line again. That becomes a sensor you want to grow and develop into your DNA. And, before you realize it, you also grow to like a broader range of music!

Think and plan ahead of your current DNA. What do you really want to add to your musicality for your career?

Longer phrases to create “Cookie”/”Chaplin” persona?
Floating Bossa Nova fluency?
Banging or uplifting beat to wake up your audience?
Threatening intensity and cool bending “between” notes you find in Jeff Beck?

2) Explore different texture in your movements. If you always move in robotic texture with a jerk, make the edges softer like a pillow, If you are too flat soft and slow, suspend the edges to add stress, or stop sooner with intensity. It is helpful to use different music to do your old play. It helps to break your habitual rhythm and push you to the edge which is unfamiliar to you and unsafe. Find where you feel unsafe. That is where “Musicianship” lives.

3) Do your simple routine exercises with different rhythms. Your inclinations/rotations are always done with uptempo? Do it with sleepy bouncy light-weight music or even with a violin solo. What will happen? You will enjoy it very much and will want to report the effect to others!

Walk in place, run in place, objects, eye exercises, or anything can be ten times more beneficial with different rhythms.

I will write about some simple exercises to mix multiple rhythms in your performance at another time.

For more information on The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our 3-week summer program in Italy, please contact: /

Haruka Moriyama,


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Caden Manson is a director, media artist, and teacher. He is co-founder of the media ensemble and network, blog, and publisher, He has co-created, directed, video- and set designed 18 Big Art Group productions. Manson has shown video installations in Austria, Germany, NYC, and Portland; performed PAIN KILLER in Berlin, Singapore and Vietnam; Taught in Berlin, Rome, Paris, Montreal, NYC, and Bern; the ensemble has been co-produced by the Vienna Festival, Festival d’Automne a Paris, Hebbel Am Ufer, Rome’s La Vie de Festival, PS122, and Wexner Center for The Arts. Caden is a 2001 Foundation For Contemporary Art Fellow, is a 2002 Pew Fellow and a 2011 MacDowell Fellow. Writing has been published in PAJ, Theater Magazine, and Theater der Zeit. Caden is currently an associate professor and graduate directing option coordinator of The John Wells Directing Program at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama.

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