play by ear


1

Play a musical instrument without the aid of written music, as in By the time she was four, she could play a dozen songs by ear. [Late 1600s]

2

play it by ear. Proceed gradually, depending on the circumstances; improvise. For example, I'm not sure how much we should say about our plans, so let's play it by ear. [Mid-1900s]

QUIZZES

THINK YOU’VE GOT A HANDLE ON THIS US STATE NICKNAME QUIZ?

Did you ever collect all those state quarters? Put them to good use on this quiz about curious state monikers and the facts around them.
Question 1 of 8
Mississippi’s nickname comes from the magnificent trees that grow there. What is it?
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.