Corder was born in Hackney, the son of Micah Corder and his wife Charlotte Hill. He was educated at Blackheath Proprietary School  and started music lessons, particularly piano, early. Later he studied with Henry Gadsby. After that he studied harmony with Claude Couldery.
Frederick Corder continued his studies at the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied with George Alexander Macfarren (harmony and composition), William Cusins (piano) and William Watson (violin). In 1875 he earned a Mendelssohn Scholarship, which enabled him to study for four years abroad. He spent the first three in the Cologne Conservatory in Cologne, Germany, where he studied composition with Ferdinand Hiller and piano with Isidor Seiss. He spent his last year in Milan, Italy without formal instruction. He did however meet Arrigo Boito and Giuseppe Verdi. Upon his return to England, in 1879, he became conductor at the Brighton Aquarium.
Corder became professor of composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London, becoming the Academy's curator in 1889. His students included notable British composers like Granville Bantock, Arnold Bax, York Bowen, Alan Bush, Eric Coates, Benjamin Dale and Joseph Holbrooke, as well as his own son, Paul Corder. With others, Frederick Corder co-founded the Society of British Composers in 1905 and served as its first chairman.
He developed an early fascination with Richard Wagner and produced with his wife the first accepted English translations of The Ring and other works by Wagner. His own compositions included songs, operas and cantatas. Corder's Prospero overture can be heard on CD and is available in full score.
Corder married Henrietta Walford, the daughter of Henry Walford on 25 September 1876. They had a daughter, Dorothea Charlotte (known as Dolly), born on 30 June 1878 (died in her nineties), and a son, Paul Walford, born on 14 December 1879 (died on 7 August 1942). Corder's sister, Rosa Corder, was a friend of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and painted his portrait.
Compositions (selective list)
Principal source (including opus numbers): "Frederick Corder" (The Musical Times 54 (849), November 1913, pp.713–716) 
- 1876 - Evening on the Sea-Shore, idyll, Op.1 (fp. St James's Hall, London, 25 November 1886)
- 1876-79 - In the Black Forest, suite, Op.2 (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 20 March 1880, second movement fp. as The Brooklet, rondo scherzoso, St James's Hall, London, 17 December 1878)
- 1882 - Ossian, concert overture, Op.8 (fp. Philharmonic Society, London, 9 March 1882)
- 1882 - Nocturne, Op.9 (fp. Brighton Festival, 1882)
- 1885 - Prospero, concert overture, Op.14 (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 24 October 1885)
- 1886 - The Tempest, orchestral scenes, Op.15
- 1887 - Roumanian Suite, Op.18 (fp. Philharmonic Society, London, 19 May 1887)
- 1892 - Nordisa, overture (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 17 December 1892)
- 1897 - Pippa Passes, orchestral scena drammatica, Op.24 (fp. Philharmonic Society, London, 28 April 1898)
- 1908 - Elegy for Twenty-four Violins and Organ In memoriam Victor Harris, Op.28
- Tragic Overture (fp. Bournemouth, January 1902)
- Scene d'Amour (fp. Bournemouth, January 1902)
Choral and vocal
- 1879 - The Triumph of Spring, masque (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 8 February 1879)
- 1881 - The Cyclops, cantata, Op.6
- 1883 - Dreamland, symphonic ode for chorus and orchestra, Op.10
- 1886 - The Bridal of Triermain, cantata, Op.16 (fp. Wolverhampton Festival, 17 September 1886)
- 1888 - The Minstrel's Curse, ballad for reciter and orchestra, Op.19 (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 10 March 1888)
- 1889 - The Sword of Argantyr, cantata, Op.20 (fp. Leeds Festival, 9 October 1889)
- 1893 - Margaret: The Blind Girl of Castel-Cuillé, cantata for female voices with piano accompaniment, Op.21
- 1895 - True Thomas, musical recitation, Op.23
- 1902 - The Witch's Song, musical recitation, Op.27
- 1912 - Sing unto God, motet in fifty parts for female voices, organ, harps, trumpets and drums, Op.29 (fp. Royal Academy of Music, London, 22 June 1912)
- 1922 - A Wreath of a Hundred Roses [The R.A.M. Masque], Section 4: Quodlibet (fp. Royal Academy of Music, London, 17 July 1922)
- 1877-78 - Mort d'Arthur, grand opera, Op.3 (fp. Brighton, 1879)
- 1880 - Philomel, operatic satire, Op.4
- 1880 - A Storm in a Teacup, operetta, Op.5 (fp. Aquarium, Brighton, 18 February 1882)
- 1883 - The Nabob's Pickle, operetta, Op.12 (fp. Aquarium, Great Yarmouth, 9 July 1883)
- 1885 - The Noble Savage, operetta, Op.13 (fp. Brighton, 3 October 1885)
- 1887 - Nordisa, romantic opera, Op.17 (fp. Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool, 26 January 1887)
- 1898 - The Termagant, overture and incidental music, Op.25 (fp. Her Majesty's Theatre, London, 1 September 1898)
- 1899 - The Black Tulip, overture and incidental music, Op.26 (fp. Haymarket Theatre, London, 21 October 1899)
- Corder, Frederick The Orchestra and how to write for it, 1895. ISBN 978-1-104-50078-8
- Corder, Frederick Modern Composition, 1909. ISBN 1-140-35011-0
- Corder, Frederick A History of the Royal Academy of Music from 1822-1922, 1922.
- Corder, Frederick Ferencz (François) Liszt, 1925. ISBN 0-404-12888-2
- Visitation of England
- For a portrait and discussion of Corder's role and teaching style at the RAM, see: Lewis Foreman (1983, rev 2007). Bax: A Composer and his Times, chapter 2, pp 10–19. Boydell Press. ISBN 978-1-84383-209-6.
- Foreman, Lewis (2007). Bax: a composer and his times.
- Priory, Hugh (1991). Victorian concert overtures (pdf) [sleevenotes]. Hyperion records. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
- Corder, Frederick (1885). Prospero. Concert overture for full orchestra (full score). Eastman School of Music - Sibley Music Library (previously published by Novello, Ewer & Co, New York). Retrieved 22 August 2011.
- Although this source assigns the cantata The Sword of Argantyr as Op.22, it was published as Op.20 in 1889.
- "Frederick Corder". The Musical Times (Musical Times Publications Ltd.) 54 (849): 713–716. November 1913. doi:10.2307/907945. JSTOR 907945.