During embryonic development, the paraxial mesoderm becomes segmented into somites, within which proliferative muscle progenitors and muscle fibers establish the skeletal musculature. Here, we demonstrate that a gene network previously implicated in somite boundary formation, involving the transcriptional regulators Tbx6, Mesp-b and Ripply1, also confers spatial and temporal regulation to skeletal myogenesis in zebrafish. We show that Tbx6 directly regulates mesp-b and ripply1 expression in vivo, and that the interactions within the regulatory network are largely conserved among vertebrates. Mesp-b is necessary and sufficient for the specification of a subpopulation of muscle progenitors, the central proportion of the Pax3(+)/Pax7(+) dermomyotome. Conditional ubiquitous expression indicates that Mesp-b acts by inhibiting myogenic differentiation and by inducing the dermomyotome marker meox1. By contrast, Ripply1 induces a negative-feedback loop by promoting Tbx6 protein degradation. Persistent Tbx6 expression in Ripply1 knockdown embryos correlates with a deficit in dermomyotome and myotome marker gene expression, suggesting that Ripply1 promotes myogenesis by terminating Tbx6-dependent inhibition of myogenic maturation. Together, our data suggest that Mesp-b is an intrinsic upstream regulator of skeletal muscle progenitors and that, in zebrafish, the genes regulating somite boundary formation also regulate the development of the dermomyotome in the anterior somite compartment.