Making up music together improves depression

Musical interaction in music therapy is an effective treatment for depression

It is already known that client-therapist rapport is a predictor for success in music therapy, but this article takes that one step further by examining whether there is a correlation between musical interactions and positive outcomes for clients with depression. Spoiler alert: there is!

“Musical interactions” means using music to communicate, and in most cases it would indicate taking turns at making up some music on the spot. Notably, the clients in this study who simply listened to music at home did not experience the same improvements in their depression as those who interacted with the music therapist, using music.

This study found that making up music with a music therapist was even more effective for treating depression during the “middle” of a course of therapy, rather than at the beginnings or end. For people experiencing depression, “musicking” together is a great pathway forward.


NB. In this blog post I have chosen not to use the word “improvisation”, because some people who have received basic instruction in an instrument can find that word very fraught with rules, structures and a lot of music theory. In a music therapy setting, we use “improvisation” to just mean making up anything at all without any rules.



Hartmann, M., Mavrolampados, A., Toiviainen, P., Saarikallio, S., Foubert, K., Brabant, O., Snape, N., Ala-Ruona, E., Gold, C., & Erkkilä, J. (2023). Musical interaction in music therapy for depression treatment. Psychology of Music, 51(1), 33–50.

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