Edgar Tinel was taught his first music lessons by his father, verger-organist in Sinaai. At the Royal Conservatory in Brussels he was educated by among others Louis Brassin (piano), Alphonse Mailly (organ) and François-Auguste Gevaert (composition). As a piano virtuoso he became an internationally celebrated concert pianist with his renditions of Beethoven, Liszt and Mendelssohn, but especially Schumann. Afterwards he dedicated himself more exclusively to composing. In 1877 he was awarded the Prix de Rome for his cantata Klokke Roeland, with lyrics by Maurits Sabbe. Because of this composition with Dutch lyrics many of his contemporaries now unfairly regarded the French speaking Tinel as a flamingant. He did composed a lot of music with Dutch lyrics however, and was one of the first to set Gezelle’s poems to music. He especially wrote vocal music. Together with Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens he led the Belgian branch of the international movement for authentic church music, with August Reyns and Karel Mestdagh among its members. In 1881 he succeeded Lemmens as principal of the Institute for religious music in Mechelen, later known as the Lemmensinstitute. In 1889 he was appointed inspector for music education, in 1896 he became professor of counterpoint and fugue at the Brussels conservatory and was appointed principal there in 1908. He supported the Brugean composer Joseph Ryelandt during his education.