I’m no expert, but here’s my advice:
- Use ordinary (not fractional) high-tension (or “hard” tension) strings.
- I like D’Addario EXP hard strings, but they are relatively expensive ($8.50 online, $15 at retail stores).
- Note, however, that a commenter (see Ray DeGennaro’s second comment, below) found these strings to be unplayable on his child’s 1/4-size Strunal. This is a puzzle, since I use them on the same guitar. But apparently they don’t work for everybody.
- For a few bucks less, you could get D’Addario ProArte hard strings, which should be just fine.
- I’ve also used ordinary Savarez strings, but I prefer the D’Addarios.
- Avoid LaBella fractional strings. They stink.
- Note: In the comments, Ray DeGennaro says that he likes Hannabach Kinder Guitar strings (see below). I’ve never used them, and personally, I would avoid them because they have a wound G string. But use your own judgment.
Why high-tension strings? Because (according to a luthier who explained this to me) on a short-scale guitar, to bring an ordinary string up to pitch, you apply less tension than you would on a full-size guitar. So strings that would be under low tension on a full-size guitar will be under extra-low tension on a short-scale guitar. To get ordinary strings to feel right on a short-scale guitar, you need to use high-tension strings.
“But,” you ask, “if high tension is good, why not use extra-hard strings?”
Maybe you should. I’ve only used hard strings, though, so I can’t say how extra-hard strings would feel.
Why not use the LaBella fractional strings? Because they include a wound G string, not a nylon one. Why would anyone want a wound G string on a kid’s guitar? It’s hard enough keeping a kid’s nails in shape without having one more wound string to wear them down. Also, I got notable fret buzz on my 6th string when I used the LaBellas. My guitar’s action is low, but I did not get the same buzz with either ordinary Savarez strings or the D’Addario “hard” EXP strings.
As I noted, a commenter is happy with Hannabach Kinder fractional strings. These are the only fractional strings, other than LaBellas, that I know of.
For myself, the hard D’Addarios both sound and feel good enough (on a 1/4-size Strunal) that I don’t plan to get anything else.
But if you know different, please chime in in the comments!