Music Foundations Tutorial: Chord Progressions

Multi-talented musician, Mark de Clive-Lowe shows use his approach to building melodies and musical structures around chord progressions using Native Instruments’ Maschine. 

In this special masterclass, guest instructor and multi-national phenom Mark de Clive-Lowe demonstrates different improvisational approaches to building melodies and musical structures around two chord progressions using Native Instruments’ Maschine. The students present in the video are part of Dubspot’s three level Music Foundations Program currently available at our schools in New York City, Los Angeles, and Online.

Mark de Clive-Lowe

Did you know that there are three distinct types of musicians in today’s global music scene? These types of musicians direct their attention to different aspects of the compositional process: one is focused primarily on pitch/melody, another on rhythm/beats, and the last on timbre/sound design. Today, the well-rounded musician will be well versed in all three of these areas, and that is the main idea behind Dubspot’s Music Foundations Program.

Using material from Music Foundations Level 2: Keys and Melodic Theory, Mark de Clive-Lowe focuses on pitch and melody while demonstrating how to use a set of pitches to improvise over a two-chord progression, namely the Pentatonic scale (a common five note scale). The progression goes from a C Minor chord to an F Minor chord, which fits nicely underneath the C Minor Pentatonic scale. With the addition of some tension filled note choices, such as the #4/b5 “blue note,” Mark quickly creates some melodic variations. By the end of this video, we see all of the elements put together in two musical examples in different genres and at different tempi. This is a small taste of what you will learn in the Music Foundations program at Dubspot. Be sure to check out other music theory related articles here.


About Mark de Clive-Lowe

MARK de CLIVE-LOWE (MdCL) is one of the most innovative producers and live performers you will find anywhere – equal parts jazz musician, electronica artist, and DJ.

Anchored by the duality of his Japanese and New Zealander parentage and ignited by a love of playing piano at the age of four, it is no wonder this multi-national phenom has seen his explosive natural gifts blaze across the globe from NZ to the US, UK, Europe, Asia, Cuba and South Africa. Whether you call him an artist, producer, composer, pianist, performer, DJ, or selecta, titles are impartial to Mark de Clive-Lowe (MdCL). Many try to classify this impressively fertile music journey, yet to identify with only one label belies the heavy scope of the ride. The piano set the course; the keyboard is the vehicle, and with the drum machine as the fuel, the relentless skill of MdCL is underscored by a rare sonic sensibility. He’s an accomplished musician, originally sowing his oats in straight-ahead jazz, before taking the music far beyond.

A devastating live performer, the MdCL experience is marked by impromptu studio production created on stage from scratch, using drum machines, keyboards, and effects. The end result: live remixes birthed on stage for each and every gig. With bold chops like this, to call him “prolific” is an understatement, having contributed to over 250 releases and being a first-call collaborator for a wide range of artists, including Jill Scott, Jody Watley, Leon Ware (Marvin Gaye/Michael Jackson/Maxwell), DJ Spinna, Sandra St. Victor (The Family Stand/Chaka Khan), amongst a slew of others.

Based in LA for the past seven years after a decade entrenched in the cultural epicenter of London’s broken beat scene, MdCL leads his live band with his party CHURCH performs solo live electronic sets for the dancefloor, educates with masterclasses and workshops, and collaborates with a broad range of artists and creatives.

Melding the beat-making and technology with musicianship and tradition, MdCL’s potential is beyond convention. He’s one who takes it all on the road like no one else, with a solid fan base that bridges cities as far reaching as LA, NYC, Atlanta, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Tokyo, and Sydney.

Connect with Mark on Facebook | Twitter | SoundCloud | Website


EDU Summer Sessions

Music Foundations Program

Unravel electronic music’s origins, build your chops, learn musical language and theory, and make and play music the way you want. Students will develop a deeper understanding of the roots and lineage of a variety of electronic and dance music genres, strengthen their keyboard skills, and learn valuable music theory, deepening their creative practice and facilitating effective collaborations with musical partners.

About This Program

The best producers, DJs, and musicians in the world strive to be well-rounded. So should you. In Dubspot’s Music Foundations Program, you’ll explore three major aspects of music: rhythmic theory, melodic theory, and critical listening.

Most pioneering early electronic musicians had years of conservatory training in theory and performance but had access to very limited technologies. In today’s musical world, it’s the opposite: we have a powerful and versatile array of electronic music making tools at our fingertips, but often fall short in our theoretical understanding of how electronic music works.

Our Music Foundations program is designed to fill this gap and provide training in fundamental skills and concepts with the electronic musician, DJ, and producer in mind. In this course, you’ll build your chops and learn the basics of musical language and theory so that you can make and play the music you want. You will also develop a deeper understanding of the roots and lineage of a variety of electronic and dance music genres, and explore compositional techniques and song structure. The weekly homework lessons for all three courses have been designed using Ableton Live, and along the way you’ll also learn the basics of Ableton and how to use it as a powerful tool to improve your musicianship in a variety of ways.

What’s Included

  • Music Foundations Level 1: Pads & Rhythmic Theory
  • Music Foundations Level 2: Keys & Melodic Theory
  • Music Foundations Level 3: Critical Listening

Additional Information

Visit the Music Foundations course page for detailed information on this program here.

If you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.

  • Vlad
  • 6/2/2016

Thank you guys for sharing this! There’s a whole lot of invaluable info in just 13-minute video.

  • Rocky
  • 6/2/2016

One of the best educational videos out there in the internet! Quite impressed!

Just one question left: Are the sounds and samples that are used all from Maschine library?

Keep it up!