Kate: You’re visiting Kyoto? What are you planning to see?
Ellen: I’m just going to play it by ear. I like to be spontaneous.

Usually musicians learn songs by reading the music off paper. But if you don’t know a song, sometimes you can play it anyway just by listening and guessing at the notes. Of course, you must be a very good player to do this. We use the same phrase to mean any time someone improvises to cover a lack of planning or memorization beforehand.


音楽家は普段楽譜を読んで曲を覚えます。ですが、知らない曲でも聴いて、マネして弾くこともできます。もちろん、かなり上手じゃないとできません。予定や準備をしていないのに適当に合わせることを同じフレーズ(play it by ear)で表します。