Play it by ear: (1) Play music without reading from a score; (2) To do something instinctively; to do something without planning based on the circumstances.
Context #1 – Friends talking about an upcoming trip
Hanna: So what are we going to do when we get to London?
Leslie: Well, we said we would go to the major attractions during the day.
Hanna: Yeah, but I want to go out at night too. Should I do some research?
Leslie: Let’s just play it by ear. I mean, we don’t even know what it will feel like until we arrive.
Hanna: Yeah, that’s not a bad idea. Let’s just play it by ear then. I’m sure we’ll figure something out.
Context #2 – Two traveling musicians.
Jason: I can’t wait for our concert this Sunday. I can’t believe we’re opening for Black Violin.
Jose: I know. I heard they always invite their opening act to play on stage with them impromptu. What should we do if that happens?
Jason: We’ll just play it by ear man. That’s the best way to approach something like that.
Jose: I guess we have no choice. Awesome! Wyld Stallyns!!!
Explanation: “Play it by ear” means to do something without any planning. It could apply to music or any situation where there are no instructions. Many people use it when they feel confused about life.
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