Definition of play something by ear in English:

play something by ear


  • 1Perform music without having to read from a score.

    ‘she could play both by ear and by reading’
    • ‘Have you truly achieved mastery of your instrument if you cannot play it by ear?’
    • ‘For relaxation he played the piano by ear, favouring Chopin's Etudes.’
    • ‘He was born into a family of musicians, and by the age of four he could play any tune by ear.’
    • ‘He taught himself to play a bit by ear, amused the rowdy crowds, and picked up small change.’
    • ‘Almost every Kazak knows how to sing and play a musical instrument by ear.’
    • ‘Today he still can't read music; he plays instruments by ear.’
    • ‘He learned to play the piano by ear, developing a talent for improvisation which, years later, he would put to good use during the filming of America: A Personal History of the United States.’
    • ‘Later on, I discovered I could play the piano by ear and it became my passion.’
    1. 1.1play it by earinformal Proceed instinctively according to results and circumstances rather than according to rules or a plan.
      ‘we'll just have to play it by ear until we can get something definite sorted out’
      • ‘That's a decision for the future, and we'll play it by ear.’
      • ‘I can't predict how it's going to go, though, so I'll just play it by ear.’
      • ‘Unless you're specifically dating to get married, or you have some sort of long-term plan from the start, isn't a lot safer to play it by ear?’
      • ‘We are just playing it by ear and waiting to see what is going to happen.’
      • ‘I haven't made any decisions; I'm just going to play it by ear.’
      • ‘I'm not sure what's on the itinerary; we'll just play it by ear; might visit a gallery, go for something to eat, etc.’
      • ‘We'll play quite a lot of tunes from the latest LP, but usually we play it by ear and see how the gig's going and then throw in some tracks from the older albums.’
      • ‘Though his parents believe studies and going to a university are important, they are going to play it by ear.’
      • ‘We haven't got any plans as yet, and we don't know when the next thing will be and we're just kind of playing it by ear.’
      • ‘‘There are storms forecast for later in the week but we are just playing it by ear,’ said trainer Michael Jarvis.’
      improvise, extemporize, rise to the occasion, ad lib
      improvise, extemporize, ad lib
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