Peter Buffett was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and graduated from Central High School in downtown Omaha. He attended Stanford University.
Buffett began his musical career in the early part of the 1980s in San Francisco. There, he produced albums for local talent. He also was hired by ad agencies to author commercials and logos for MTV and CNN, both of which were at the time new on cable television in the United States. Agencies also hired Buffett to write commercials for Coca-Cola and other notable clients.
Narada Productions, a new age music recording company, signed Buffett to a recording contract. In 1987, Buffett debuted with Narada, releasing an album entitled The Waiting. While working on his second album, One by One, Buffett moved to Milwaukee, home of Narada Productions and closer to his childhood home in Omaha, Nebraska. Buffett would release two more albums with Narada: Lost Frontier and Yonnondio.
While with Narada, Buffett had his first major success, scoring and choreographing the Fire Dance in the film, Dances with Wolves. The film score, composed by John Barry, would win an Academy Award. After Buffett played at the film's 1991 premiere, John Barry invited Buffett to collaborate with him once again, this time at the Abbey Road Studios in London. Buffett composed two songs on the soundtrack for The Scarlet Letter.
After the release of Yonnondio, Buffett signed with Epic Records, which in 1994 released his soundtrack for the CBS miniseries 500 Nations, which was produced by Kevin Costner, who also co-produced Dances with Wolves. The miniseries would win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries in 1995.