|That's the idea.|
Real vs. simulated
Generic playalong collections, like the popular Groove Essentials series, are fine for getting together the very basics of a style, or for getting a general sense of your readiness for the professional world. You get clean recordings which closely resemble music in a variety of (mostly) common styles, as they might be played by the best American musicians. But don't mistake them for the real act of making music, despite their similarity to it: to me they are a gutted, abstracted form of playing. They're missing the actual things you're supposed to be playing in support of, the real impetus for most of what you play: a melody, and a lead voice.
Compare the experience of playing along with some of our previous pop transcriptions: God, Anticipation, or Beauty And The Beast, with that of any of the rock/pop entries from GE— here's one:
What is missing from the naked rhythm tracks should be obvious. On the actual records, the rhythm section parts are only one element of what the drummers are playing off of; they are equally focused on what is happening in the melody; their parts are intimately connected with it, and closely track its dynamics, and overall arc. You only get the barest shadow of that with the playalongs. Being able to play convincingly to a generic rhythm track— to play blind, essentially— is a real skill, but it is not the main thing.
Much more of this after the break: