In any choir I’ve led, the sopranos always ‘get’ their parts before the altos, tenors and basses. But it’s not because sopranos are smarter or better musicians. It is simply because the melody is the thing the ear most readily gravitates toward. And the melody, in normal SATB structure, sits on top and is easily picked out. Sorry girls . . . your job may occasionally involve extreme heights, but it is not the most difficult assignment in the choir!
The basses, on the other hand, reside in the nether regions of the music where they are permanent basement dwellers, relegated to the dank recesses of the harmonic structure. While they may not have the hardest role, what basses do for the music is foundational. Everything above is built on what is below.
So when giving notes from the piano, I always insist “Bottoms Up!” Never top down . . . because the sopranos never have trouble finding the melody. I’m sayin’ . . . the piano cue should always be from the bottom up, where the foundation of the harmony resides, and where the ear needs to anchor, musically speaking.
If your pianist starts to give cues from the bottom up, I guarantee you’ll see a difference in the pace of part-learning from the altos, tenors and basses!