Free-improvisation is a practice that I never thought I could learn but I've been so pleasantly surprised by the last couple of weeks that I'd like to share with others how I got started in the hope that this post offers a little encouragement to others.
First of all, my main interest is modern piano like Ben Folds, Keith Jarrett and some ragtime (I love Eubie's Classical Rag).
I've been following the Rockschool piano grades which have brought me to Grade 5. I have reasonable hand independence but my brain can still be tricked into sending the message to the wrong hand.
Earlier this summer I bought the book "Play piano with Ben Folds" and I went to war ... WAR, I say ... with "Philosophy", "Landed" and "Army". So much patience was needed but those songs gave me something of an idea of how to achieve that modern flowing pop piano sound.
Then I bought Keith Jarrett's Köln Concert. What an inspiration!! I'm a little dubious of just how off-the-cuff Köln Part IIc is, but it is so inspiring to witness ideas being born and evolving into themes right throughout the album.
I then listened to this ... Keith Jarrett on "Piano Jazz"
and it was all the encouragement I needed to take that first step and force a VERY simple left hand pattern to accompany some EXTREMELY simple right hand patterns; 2 bars of Dmin and 2 bars of Gmaj (ii-V in the key of C).
Those first few notes could barely have been called music but after 3-5 mins I could feel my brain putting up less resistence to this new exercise.
Over the following few weeks, doing about 30 mins of free improv a day, I made the left hand patterns slightly trickier, changed the time signiture, and change keys every now and then. And each time I just walk up to the piano, paw at a few keys for a while, after a minute something catches my attention which I try to turn into a left-hand pattern and then just try to enjoy the rest. The experience is so liberating!!
Anyway, these are just the experiences of an intermediate player who is still overjoyed at the discovery that I too can be a little creative. I honestly didn't think I had it in me so I only mean this posting as some form of encouragment to anyone who has had similar doubts.