Music therapy can be used to improve treatment of depression, at least in the short term, say researchers in Finland.
The technique used non-verbal communication to help patients express their emotions.
A study on 79 people, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, showed a greater improvement than in patients receiving standard therapy.
British experts said music may engage people in ways that words cannot.
Music therapists are used, including by the NHS, to help children who struggle to communicate. Playing instruments and singing with a trained music therapist is supposed to help children express themselves.
In this study, all patients with depression received the standard practice of counselling and appropriate medication. Thirty three of them were also given 20 sessions with a trained music therapist, which involved things such as drumming.
After three months, patients receiving music therapy showed a greater improvement in scores of anxiety and depression than the other set of patients.
However, there was no statistical improvement after six months.
Professor Christian Gold, from the University of Jyväskylä, said: "Our trial has shown that music therapy, when added to standard care helps people to improve their levels of depression and anxiety."
"Music therapy has specific qualities that allow people to express themselves and interact in a non-verbal way - even in situations when they cannot find the words to describe their inner experiences.
Dr Mike Crawford, who specialises in mental health services at Imperial College London, said in a journal editorial: "The results suggest that it can improve the mood and general functioning of people with depression.
"Music-making is social, pleasurable and meaningful. It has been argued that music making engages people in ways that words may simply not be able to."