At least that's been my experience. I've been playing bass for a while now, over a year, and I had noticed lately that I was at sort of a wall with my practicing. I never felt like I was getting any better or faster as far as playing technique goes. I'm off at school and I don't have an amp here, mainly because my amps are too big to have here and it would annoy the neighbors. I hadn't wanted to spend the ~$100 or so to buy a small bass amp so I just practiced without an amp except on the weekend when I go home and have band practice and such. I'm finding that to be a bit of a mistake. When you practice without an amp, at least in my experience, I tend to pluck it a lot harder in order to hear what I'm doing. And that also means my left hand always was using more pressure than was necessary also. These things will seriously cripple your speed and sound also because I was always using really hard attack which loses a lot of finesse on making your tone. So I plugged into my brother's (also my roomate) guitar amp the other day to check and make sure I got output from my pickups after gutting my bass and installing new components, and actually getting sound when I play made me go back in there a lot of the times I want to practice so I could hear what I was doing. Since I've been doing that I noticed a serious improvement in my speed and technique when I'm not fighting to hear the notes anymore. I always wondered why I had a crappy tone when trying to play anything besides hard rock (which is what my band is, so I never saw a problem with my playing for that stuff because it needs a harder attack). This also explains why my picking technique was a lot better than my fingerstyle because you can hear a pick much better without an amp. It was trying to play some insanely fast John Paul Jones basslines after seeing a Led Zeppelin tribute band the other night that made me realize I was really slow with my fingerstyle playing...man that guy is so underrated! I'm going to be buying a small bass amp really soon... Anybody else had similar un-amplified experiences?