Shawn Pelton


Shawn Pelton

Lending his beats to the world's most successful artists in rock, pop, R&B and Americana, Shawn Pelton always plays for the song. Pelton's typical week includes enough rehearsals, gigs and recording dates to make the average percussionist's head spin. His twelve-year tenure with the Saturday Night Live band and big stadium tours with artists such as Sheryl Crow could be Pelton's most visible moments. But behind closed Manhattan studio doors, Pelton has carefully developed a penchant for playing "the right part" for the music at hand. Whether he is reaching for tattered brushes, an odd homemade shaker, a pair of plastic drumsticks or his trusty Live-empowered laptop, Pelton's musical drumming and conjured electronic loops have been exploited by a growing list of luminary artists including Buddy Guy, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, David Byrne, Elton John, Billy Joel, Edie Brickell, Shawn Colvin, The Brecker Brothers and hundreds of others. Ableton caught up with Pelton in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he was setting up to record with recent Latin sensation Shakira. Throughout the conversation, Pelton recounted his passion for making music, playing for the song and baking grooves in Ableton Live.

"The thing that I like best about Live is how fun and easy it is to drastically change songs and sounds in every direction, especially with a big collection of VST plug-ins," Pelton says. "When I was out with Sheryl Crow, we used Ableton Live as a live jamming and writing tool. It is unbelievable how this program allows you to actually interact in real time with any WAV or AIF on your hard drive and spontaneously come up with material in a writing situation. I have also been using the program when performing live around New York in my band House of Diablo."

"Live has also been an incredible tool in the studio for coming up with beats and loops for sessions. One of my favorite new ways to spontaneously create beats is to wig out with Impulse (Live's percussion sampler). I use my M-Audio Trigger Finger to play the drum sounds that I have shaped in Impulse. It is wild how well these work together! Also, the ability to record directly into Live with live drums or anything else is great. The Warp Marker concept is an amazing way to actually massage audio, bending it any way you need it. I use this all the time."

He uses everything but the kitchen sink to roll his own loops in this video.

Check out how Pelton massages beats.