Make Your Own Soundtrack
Learning to improvise is a challenging thing, especially free improvisation. One fun way to learn is to gather up all your percussion and arrange it in front of your TV. Then put on a film (any type), turn off the sound, and create the soundtrack!
Create both the music and the sound effects in real time. Don’t think about what you are doing, just react to the film and the action (or lack of) on the screen in front of you. While this can be fairly easy with an action film—where there are crashes, explosions, etc.—it is really challenging with a slower paced film based on the relationship between the actors. Scenes like a dinner, a walk in a garden, swimming, etc. demand that we be creative in improvising a percussive sound track that isn’t just loud and drumistic.
You can also do the same thing with a television show. For a real challenge, just hit a random channel on your remote and create the music for whatever comes up! Change the channel every 10 minutes. Try the same thing with recordings that have no drums: string quartets, symphonies, chamber music, solo piano/guitar, folk singers, etc. Again, create a soundtrack/accompaniment based on what you hear. Don’t think about it, just react.
You can also impose rules on what you are doing. For example: use only metal sounds, or wood sounds; use only your fingers, or a stick and a mallet; use only 3/4/5/etc. instruments. Be creative and stretch yourself out of your comfort zones. If we always practice the same things every day, then that’s all we’ll ever know.
Leave your inhibitions & expectations at the door.