I've come across a few cases where I needed to write this phrase and I cannot determine which is correct. Do we "play it by ear" or "play it by year"? I'm using this with the intended meaning of something like "we'll figure it out as we go". I'm not using it in any sort of musical sense.
closed as off-topic by Andrew Leach♦, Barrie England, Mari-Lou A, Janus Bahs Jacquet, user49727 Nov 15 '13 at 22:25
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The phrase is "play it by ear", meaning to use a musical instrument to play a song using your sense of sound (and memory) to guide the way, rather than by reading a music sheet.
If you are referring to someone who plays a musical instrument without sheet music, then they are said to be playing the piece 'by ear'. It means that they have listened to it so many times that they are able to reproduce the notes from memory.
There is no obvious single meaning for the expression 'play it by year' but it might be possible to think of one!