Is this accomplished mostly by good grip? I noticed I'm playing more with the fleshy part right below my finger tips instead of my finger tips. I have somewhat chubby baby like fingers. Is this something I have to slowly learn? Also what's the best way to build your whole left side? Is it just a matter of playing very often? Are there exercises to do without the guitar?
Ideally, you'll have to consciously train yourself to use your fingertips through a somewhat methodical, repeated use of them.
First of all, ensure that you've adopted a healthy playing posture; keep your back naturally straight and shoulders back while remaining relaxed, and maintain a straight and calm fretting hand wrist before assuming your playing position. Be sure to keep your fretting hand's thumb in the middle of the back of the neck, but don't exert any effort - just allow it to ''rest'' there.

As for consciously controlling your use of fingertips for fretting, line each of your fingers up above your high E string (hovering as close to the string as you can), while making sure that your fingertips are pointing as directly toward the fretboard as you can (whilst still remaining relaxed, of course. Never burden yourself with excess tension or stress when practicing or playing, if you can help it).
Now, fret with your first finger, with a motion akin to pointing in the direction of your wrist (moving parallel to it) rather than actively ''pushing'' the string down, using the fingertip that you've already got prepared from the previous step.
Your three ''hovering'' fingers might be tempted to join your first finger in fretting, but so long as you consciously think of fretting with the first finger only, those involuntary movements will be minimized, and with some persistence, you'll have started to develop some solid finger independence.
Another user on these boards, Freepower, also makes a point to not ''lift'' your fingers off of the string when you're finished fretting, but rather you should allow your finger to ''relax'' itself back to its default position (the hovering above the string, as touched upon earlier). If you run a Youtube search for FreepowerUG, there are a couple of fantastic lessons on finger independence and playing posture, which explains all of this very effectively.

These are essentially the motions you'll want to ingrain in each of your fingers, so repeat the method with one finger for a while until it feels comfortable, and then move on to the second, third, and fourth. A couple of sets lasting a couple of minutes each day will be a tremendous help in consciously programming your body and muscles to behave in the most efficient and economical way, which will set you up for the rest of your time as a guitar player.

I hope this post has helped out, but please don't hesitant to ask me to clarify anything if I'd blabbered on too much or had been unclear on some things.

Last edited by juckfush at Jan 30, 2012,
Try dropping your wrist under the neck. This allows you to curve your fingers and push straight down. Ideally, the first digit of each finger should be close to perpendicular to the fret board.

You actually need more strength to do this fingering method.

The problem occurs as you pull your wrist behind the neck, in an attempt to get more leverage. It leaves the fingers parallel with the board.

It's a very bad habit to get into, since with your fingers closer to parallel, you have a tendency to hit and mute strings adjacent to the one you're trying to fret.

Wrist lower under the neck, thumb in the middle of the neck, fingers bent, practice, practice, practice....
Last edited by Captaincranky at Jan 30, 2012,