This is a question that I get asked from time to time -- "How can I learn to pick out the soprano, alto, and tenor parts to choir songs?"
It takes practice, practice, and practice. And then practice. The more time you spend at it the more clear it becomes.
People who have been singing
harmonies in choirs for a long time start to develop an understanding
of how the harmonies work. Some altos and tenors can get a feeling for
what their part will be as soon as they hear a song. But that is after
lots of time spent singing lots of other songs.
I would suggest that people try listening to recordings repeatedly and trying to sing
along with the different parts -- sing the soprano part, then the alto,
then the tenor. You may need to listen to one song over and over and
over until you can differentiate and sing all the parts. Doing this
with several songs will help you get better at hearing the parts in
other songs as well.
Remember that when the different vocal parts sing together, they are
making a chord. If you're a musician, or if you're friends with a
musician, you can look at the chord structure of the song and get some
idea of what each of the vocal parts should be doing. The chords that
the voices are making may not always be exactly the same as the chords
the instruments are playing, but it's a good start.
If you're really serious about learning this skill, something else that could help a lot is going to rehearsals where a director is teaching who
knows choir parts really well. Listen to them teach lots of songs and
sing along with each part when they're teaching each one. The more you
do it, the more you'll develop an instinct for hearing the harmonies in
Does anyone else have suggestions? How did you learn how to pick out choir parts?