Javanese gamelan music is Vetter's primary research area. He has published articles on this subject in journals such as Ethnomusicology and Asian Music, and authored a website documenting the extensive holdings of gamelan sets found in one Javanese palace. His field recordings of Javanese music have been released on the Lyrichord and Music of the World labels. Vetter’s teaching responsibilities at Grinnell include co-directing a Javanese gamelan and dance ensemble with his wife, Valerie Mau Vetter.
As a Fulbright Visiting Scholar, Vetter spent a year teaching and conducting research in and around the southern Ghana city of Cape Coast. Field recordings made during this residency were released on the Smithsonian/Folkways label and worked into a richly illustrated instructional website documenting music making in a single Fante community. While directing an off-campus study program in Zimbabwe, Vetter studied the performance practice of the Shona mbira dzavadzimu. These products of his research experiences in Africa are incorporated in a regional studies course on music making in sub-Saharan Africa.
A longstanding interest in organology has resulted in the building of a 400-piece teaching collection of world music instruments and its documentation, along with all the other music department instruments, in a searchable database website. A more recent research interest in exploring how traditional performing arts become utilized in the global tourism marketplace has also resulted in a multi-media website. Vetter is currently constructing image databases on the global spread of the military band and on the creation of phonograph culture through magazine ads during the early decades of the twentieth century, two topics that are explored in his interdisciplinary introductory course Music, Culture, Context.
Vetter earned degrees from the University of Hawaii-Manoa (B.M.Ed., M.A. in Music Theory) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology).