He was born in Kongsberg, and studied music first in Oslo before going to Germany, where he studied at the conservatory in Leipzig under Salomon Jadassohn. He lived in Germany for much of his life, but received regular grants from the Norwegian government. In 1920-21 he went to the United States of America to teach composition at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He died in Oslo.
The large number of short, lyrical piano pieces and songs that Sinding wrote has led to many seeing him as the heir to his fellow countryman, Edvard Grieg. Sinding is best remembered today for one of those piano works, "Frühlingsrauschen" (Rustle of Spring, 1896). Among his other works - which are rarely performed - are four symphonies, three violin concertos, a piano concerto, chamber music and an opera, Der Heilige Berg (The Holy Mountain, 1914).