Music can effortlessly achieve in 3 seconds what might easily take 3 hours of hard work in yoga: it clears your mind. It causes you to forget and detach from the billions of desires, aspirations, thoughts, fears, etc. that are zooming around in your mind. It completely absorbs you in a single present experience, and in so doing it stills the mind.
Of course, I am talking about good music.
Samkirtan almost always employs music. If you are doing Samkirtan, make it good please – as best you are able. Not just for Radha-Krishna who are listening, but also for the sadhakas, the ordinary people who are sitting with you and participating in the kirtan. If you make the music good it will captivate their minds – detaching them from all other distractions and making their minds freed, open and receptive to focusing upon what should be the centerpiece of the kirtan music: the Maha-Mantra.
If you do kirtan, practice and improve your musical skills constantly. Its as important as improving your cooking if you are a cook.
There are two types of “ruci” (taste for Krishna’s name, etc.): dependent and independent. Japa chanting demands independent ruci – a taste for Krishna that is independent of the quality of presentation. It is devoid of melody, instrumentation, etc – and only the pure beauty of the name itself can shine. But that’s japa, not kirtan. And, frankly, that’s why concentration in and taste for japa comes a long time after concentration in and taste for kirtan. Kirtan accomodates dependent ruci – a taste for Krishna that needs to be propped up and assisted by a high quality presentation.
So if you are doing kirtan, don’t be a clod and fumble the thing – making it equivalent to japa. Make it beautiful and enchanting and engaging.
The person who has attained independent ruci constantly delights in any presentation of Krishna nama, etc – be it beautiful or not by external sensibilities. But even such a person enjoys more pleasure in a high quality presentation. So, use the tools Mahaprabhu has given. Learn to play Mrdanga and Kartala. Learn to sing beautifully. Learn how to assemble a composition and bring it through various phases and stages.
If in doubt, study with the 24 hour kirtan mandala in Vrndabana, Krishna Balarama Mandir. They are the best.