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How can I ‘learn’ to freestyle on the piano?(r/WeAreTheMusicMakers)
I’m a jazz pianist and have taught a few people (informally) about improvisation. The thing about “jazz improvisation” is that so many people think it is the only kind of improvisation. As a result, you hear a lot of canned licks from amateur jazz improvisers. Many jazz programs (especially in high schools, where a lot of kids start) focus too much on theory, asking players to think about specific scales that work over specific chords. In my opinion, this only leads to bad improvisation. Theory is a secondary step.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s what I recommend. Sit down at the piano first thing in the morning before you have listened to any music, and bang on it or fuck around for a couple minutes, loudly, atonally. Literally bang on it. It helps remove harmonic preconceptions.
Then, using your left hand, find a chord in the lower-middle register that sounds nice and lush. This should contrast a whole lot from your harsh keyfucking. Over this chord, play some notes slowly. If one sounds out of key, shift it up or down a half step. Then, find a second chord that sounds good right after the second (a fourth or fifth is a good place to start, but there are so many other options), and play a melody slowly over that.
The other thing you can do to help your ear is LISTEN to tons of music. Listen to a lot of avant-garde improvisatory stuff, as well as jazz. There’s a lot more out there than what most people realize.
If you want more concrete advice, and are shooting to play jams with guitar players, then maybe you could start with the blues. I recommend the book “Improvising Blues Piano” by Tim Richards.