Asheville Locals: Billy Zanski of Skinny Beats

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Step into Skinny Beats Sound Shop on Eagle Street in downtown Asheville and you might as well have stepped through a portal onto the other side of the planet. Djembes, handpans, Tibetan singing bowls, and a whole slew of other African and Asian percussion instruments outfit the space. And at the center of it all is Billy Zanski.

A percussionist by trade, Billy’s own sound healing journey began in Guinea, West Africa, where he received private instruction on a number of instruments from a group of local musicians he had helped on their US tour. When his Djembe teacher came to Asheville to perform and teach, Billy made his own move to the Appalachian city and opened Skinny Beats Sound Shop in 2004.

Today, Billy is leading Asheville’s sound healing scene, offering private and group sessions at his shop almost daily.

How does sound healing differ from listening to music?

Sound healing is different from listening to music because it’s done with the specific intention to go inward, to become still, and to move into a meditative state. Sound healing with live music is also more impactful than recorded music. The large gongs, crystal bowls, didgeridoo, handpan, and all the deeper tones and energy from the instruments are actually felt in the physical body.

What happens during your sound healing session?

Typically, there is a deep stillness, a surrender, a letting down of barriers, sometimes an emotional process is experienced. It really does depend on the person. The main effect is the ability to truly relax, to become still, to allow the body and mind, and spirit to heal on their own. When we truly allow our body to rest and our thoughts to dissipate, it allows all aspects of who we are to reset, to be freer, to feel refreshed in our well-being. 

Can you sound heal yourself?

Sound healing is a form of meditation, so yes, you can sound heal yourself! And if you practice it on a somewhat regular basis, the effects can be long-lasting. We encounter stress so frequently, we need to rejuvenate and tap into the experiences that counter stress, such as meditation. Whether that’s with sound, movement, talking with a friend, etc. I feel there are so many ways that we engage in meditative and healing experiences. Sound healing or music is a great one!

You can take beginner drumming classes with Billy at Skinny Beats Sound Shop on Wednesdays at 6pm, or sound healing sessions on Saturdays at 11am and 6pm, and Sundays at 11am. Billy also hosts private groups and parties for sound healing sessions. Visit to learn more about Billy’s classes and instruments, or to experience a sample of a sound healing session.