What Does The Term “Play it by Ear” or “Play it by year” Mean?

“Play it by Ear” or “Play it by year”
Written by Corey Morgan

“Play it by Ear” or “play it by year”

These two expressions (“Play it by Ear” or “play it by year”) often cause an uproar among people and there’s never been any better time to discuss them than now. Even among students and academics, because there’s almost a thin line of boundary between the two meanings it leaves people confused.

What makes this case fascinating is the fact that it draws meanings from two aspects; grammatically and musically. Music folks always seek different meanings in words and sentences. This is right because the lyrics you hear and see are not always grammatically correct. What matters is that you’re able to understand and that the musician can convey their feelings to you.

In this article, we’ll review both phrases “Play it by Ear” or “play it by year” individually and it’s my sincerest hope that it provides you with the answer you seek.

The origin of “Play it by Ear”

“Play it by ear” is said to have originated from music. When someone learns music by the ear, they learn it without reading it from music sheets. Just by carefully analyzing the music and trying to recreate every single note.

The word “ear” has been used to describe musical ability since the 16th century. In 1526, William Bonde’s book, The Pilgrimage of Perfection.

“Haue a good ear” in the psalmody. A psalmody, or what is now known as the choir, was a place where psalms were sung.

“Play It By Ear” – Phrase Meaning

In a grammatical context, “Play it by ear” means doing something just on the spot without previously planning about it. It’s a phrase that means that you do something intuitively. So, if someone must do anything they’re doing presently because the situation calls for it and not because it was planned, you can say it was played by ear.

For example, you can say “ I never know what he’s going to do next, he always plays it by ear”. It means he always acts by intuition.

In music or more suitably for musicians, as we discussed above, this phrase means listening to an original song and putting it into your style and ability to recreate it.

Xavier Woods learned the trombone by ear. He didn’t attend musical coaching classes or had someone teach him how it works. He simply observed how it was played and tried recreating it. And this requires a high level of intelligence to pull off.

“Play it by year” – Phrase Meaning

This phrase sounds almost the same as “play it by ear from a distance. “Play it by year” means absolutely nothing.

Is playing by ear rare?

Some people are born with “perfect pitch,” and hearing and comprehending sound is second nature to these individuals. However, such individuals are extremely rare. Playing by ear is a skill that most people can learn with time and practice. It comes naturally as you get to know the sound of your instrument.

Listening is the key to playing by ear

To begin, pick a song that you’d like to play. As a starting point, the song should be melodic. Most rock and folk songs feature an instantly recognizable melody. Rap and hip-hop music aren’t good choices.Listen to the song over and over again. Sing along with the song to help you remember the melody. Do not worry about the song’s lyrics; you can simply hum the melody if you prefer.

Practice with a friend

Some people are born with the incredible ability to sing in tune with pitch perfect accuracy. There is no need for an external reference point for them to name or sing a given musical note. Rare as it may be, a person can be born with perfect pitch. It’s never too late to work on honing your listening abilities. Being an excellent musician isn’t contingent on having perfect pitch.

Final Thoughts on “Play it by Ear” or “play it by year”

“Playing it by ear” is the real deal. It’s grammatically correct and is backed musically. There’s no such thing as playing it by year. It’s only a misconceived version of the normal.