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You want to know whether the Mendini clarinet by Cecilio is the right model for you?
In today’s jungle-like ecommerce environment, it can be pretty frustrating to shop for a student clarinet.
And though I can’t say for sure whether this Cecilio clarinet is the best option for you, I can tell you everything I know about this instrument to help you decide for yourself.
By the end of this review, you’ll have all the relevant details about price, workmanship, durability and more to move forward confidently with your buying decision.
The Cecilio brand
Cecilio Musical Instruments is one of the lesser-known brands in the beginner student clarinet space. But they do offer a pretty wide range of beginner brass, string and percussion instruments, in addition to clarinets.
Cecilio has been in business since 2004 and is based in California. One of the things I like about this brand is that, though they manufacture overseas, they say they perform QC inspection both at the facility where the clarinets are made AND again when they receive the shipments in California.
As of this year, Cecilio’s website redirects to KK Music Store. I was curious about this change, so I contacted them directly and was told that both Cecilio and KK Music Store have recently been acquired by Thrasio, an investor in Amazon ecommerce businesses.
A customer support rep was also able to confirm that Cecilio’s quality control procedures remain unchanged.
Key criteria for rating the Mendini clarinet
Let’s jump into the main criteria for this Mendini clarinet review. These are valuable points to consider when evaluating any beginner clarinet.
- 2 barrels for tuning
- Full set of accessories included
- Decent sound and even tone
- Corks are too tight even with cork grease
- Substandard reeds and cork grease included
The Mendini by Cecilio is one of the lowest-priced models on our list of the best student clarinets (related: 15 Best Student Clarinets and How to Choose). And at around $100, the Mendini clarinet is a bargain.
Music teachers and band directors are pretty split on this model because of its price. Lower-cost models like it can be a gamble. But you’ll usually pay between $20-50 per month for the commonly suggested alternative: renting a higher-end model.
And while price is a good starting point for sizing up a clarinet, there are certainly other considerations you’ll likely find relevant. Indeed, there are other beginner models that outperform this one in other metrics.
So let’s move on to how this instrument handles and holds up to play.
Some student clarinets are easier to play than others.
For example, the mouthpiece included with some models can make it hard to blow into the instrument and produce sound. Other models may be more or less prone to arriving with quality control issues, such as leaky pads or keys that move side to side.
Problems with play-ability can be frustrating for a new clarinet player and hinder their progress. This is especially true for younger players performing in school band. Whereas a clarinet with greater ease of play is more likely to encourage a student and bolster their progress.
Cecilio’s Mendini clarinet has a decent track record for play-ability. Musicians rarely find issues with this model requiring key or pad adjustment, other repairs or replacement out of the box.
A couple minor issues worth mentioning with respect to play-ability:
Tight fitting corks
You’ll probably find this clarinet difficult to assemble and disassemble, at least at first. The bell, in particular, can be tough to connect with the lower joint. This isn’t at all unusual with new clarinets. The tenon corks are a bit oversized, and you’ll want to use plenty of cork grease to get the instrument to fit smoothly together.
Most clarinets will fit together tightly until they’re “broken in”, at which point they’re easier to assemble.
Sanding or trimming down the corks can help. But if you choose to do so, be very careful not to overdo it, or you could introduce new problems like air leaks.
Fixed thumb rest
Most clarinets come equipped with a thumb rest that the clarinet player can use for support when holding the instrument. Adjustable thumb rests are popular and provide some extra relief to players with differently sized hands.
This Mendini clarinet includes a fixed thumb rest that can’t be adjusted. It doesn’t take long to get used to the feel of a clarinet. And the thumb rest should be a very minor concern, especially for a first-time clarinetist.
3. Clarinet durability
Durability is a concern for most clarinet players. Besides the impact on an instrument’s longevity, durability also affects its resell value should the owner choose to part with it. And unless you’re buying a toy or novelty clarinet, you should probably value durability, too.
The manufacturer’s choice and quality of materials largely determine a clarinet’s durability. The Mendini by Ceclio clarinet scores OK overall in terms of durability.
Although a pretty fragile instrument to begin with, there are a couple specific parts of the clarinet where you’ll see a difference across models (relevant: Parts of a Clarinet Explained):
The body of most clarinets is made with one of two materials: wood or plastic.
Wooden clarinets tend to produce a warmer sound, which is why most professional models are made from wood. At the same time—wood being an organic material—wooden clarinets are sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity.
While both wooden and plastic clarinets can crack and break if dropped, plastic is more durable overall and is the material of choice for most student models. Plastic clarinets also won’t crack or warp when exposed to outdoor conditions, making them ideal marching band clarients.
The Mendini clarinet has a body made from ABS plastic. And apart from being the better choice in terms of durability, this material helps make this model affordable.
We’re mostly concerned with the quality of the metalwork when it comes to keys. Harder metal keywork is typically more expensive but holds its adjustment better—meaning the keys and pads work properly for longer without air leaks and other issues appearing.
Not surprisingly given its low price, Cecilio’s Mendini clarinet has softer keys than many of the other student models available. The keys bend pretty easily.
The keywork is still pretty good at this price. You’ll just want to handle this clarinet carefully, especially when disassembling.
New students have a tendency to grip the keys when pulling apart the joints, which is a quick way to bend or break the keys. So don’t do that.
Sound typically isn’t a major concern for beginner clarinet players. As they progress to the intermediate and more advanced levels, sound differences between models will become more meaningful.
Better clarinets will have a more even tone across registers. While lesser models tend to have some notes sounding slightly flat or sharp.
Don’t expect the sound quality you might from a high-end student clarinet like a Buffet Prodige (related: A Deep-Dive Review of the Buffet Prodige Clarinet). But the Mendini clarinet has a surprisingly rich, clear tone.
The mouthpiece setup included with the Mendini is a bit of a hindrance here. And upgrading to a better mouthpiece can elevate the sound quality a fair bit (more on that in accessories below).
5. Commitment to playing clarinet
Commitment is an important factor when looking at student clarinets, in particular. Is it wise to splurge for the best clarinet money can buy when the person you’re buying for has never played the instrument before?
Student clarinets vary widely in price. And though prestigious brands like Yamaha and Buffet Crampon make beautiful student models, those models also tend to cost between $600 and $1,000+ new.
So unless you’re buying for a student who’s played before and is truly passionate about clarinet, I’d suggest avoiding the higher-end models.
The Mendini clarinet by Cecilio is an ideal starter model for someone who’s uncertain how long they’ll want to play clarinet.
Budget models like the Mendini let students try clarinet for several months to a year or so. If they lose interest, it’s not a major loss. And if they decide to continue playing beyond that point, they can consider upgrading to a nicer model.
6. Accessories included with the clarinet
If you’ve looked online at new student clarinets for sale, you’ve likely noticed that some come with lots of accessories. Lesser-known brands, in particular, often include extras like lesson books, spare reeds, cleaning kits and more with their clarinet.
Accessories can be helpful if you don’t know what items you’ll need for playing besides the clarinet itself. For instance, some people buy a clarinet thinking that’s all they’ll need to start. But then they discover cork grease wasn’t included, and they can’t put the instrument together.
On the other hand, don’t be surprised if the accessories you receive with your instrument aren’t well made. In my experience, most accessories included with student clarinets are cheap quality and, at worst, unusable.
Depending on where you buy the Mendini clarinet, some or all of the following will be included:
- 10 spare reeds
- Two barrels for tuning
- Soft-shell carrying case
- White gloves
- Cleaning cloth
- Cork grease
- Clarinet stand
- Pocket lesson book
This is one of the more complete sets of accessories I’ve seen included with any model. But I can share some concerns about a few specific items:
As with most student models, the reeds included with this Cecilio clarinet are not good. They’re labeled 2.5 strength, which is a strength I would normally recommend. But these reeds are often inconsistent in thickness and hard to play with.
A better set of reeds, such as Rico 2.5 strength, can greatly improve the playing experience and shouldn’t cost more than $15-20 for a box of 10. I highly recommend buying these or a similar set of reeds upfront if you choose to buy the Mendini.
The “4C” stock mouthpiece included with the Mendini is just enough to get started. Some musicians have commented it doesn’t fit properly with the included barrels. But these cases are rare and are more a quality anomaly than a design issue with this model.
You might consider upgrading to a better one regardless because the quality of the mouthpiece has such an impact on sound and ease of play. The Yamaha 4C is a perfectly good mouthpiece and shouldn’t cost more than $30.
A decent cork grease makes it much easier to quickly assemble a clarinet without fear of breaking it. And the grease included with the Mendini clarinet isn’t great.
I’d recommend spending the $3-5 for a better name brand cork grease like Vandoren’s. Most cork grease sold individually should work just fine.
7. Manufacturer’s warranty
Whether you buy a high-end, professional model or a low-priced, no-name model, no clarinet is 100 percent free of defects. Mass manufacturing simply isn’t perfect. And sometimes the tone holes aren’t drilled cleanly, pads don’t form a good seal or some part of the body is chipped or cracked.
That’s why a manufacturer’s warranty can be a nice value added to an instrument.
Cecilio offers a 1-year limited warranty covering all their instruments in the event of manufacturing and quality defects. (To be sure, I checked with a Thrasio customer service rep who confirmed that Cecilio’s warranty policy hasn’t changed).
While other brands, typically at the higher end, offer 3- or 5-year warranties, Cecilio’s shorter warranty is still great for the price. And if a Mendini clarinet fails a student after one year of play, it may be time to consider upgrading.
Here’s a rundown of the main specifications for Cecilio’s Mendini clarinet:
- Bore: Cylindrical
- Key of: Bb
- Fingering: Boehm
- Body material: ABS plastic
- Plating: Nickel
- Mouthpiece: Stock mouthpiece
- Case: Soft-shell case
- Thumb rest: Fixed
The Mendini clarinet by Cecilio has a lot going for it. Its sound, durability and ease of play are good for the price. And the included 1-year warranty gives you confidence that, if your instrument arrives with problems, Cecilio with take responsibility and find solutions.
Having said that, this model probably isn’t the best choice for anyone who’s played clarinet before and wants to continue with it long term. Spending more for a mid- or higher-end model usually makes for sense for them.
But anyone new to the clarinet who just wants to try out the instrument can’t go wrong with the Mendini. The low price and full set of accessories make it very accessible to newcomers without requiring a major upfront commitment. You can also choose from several different colors, which makes this one especially popular for kids.