This is a REALLY basic question. Do you hold the strings down with the pads of your fingers or the very ends of your fingers? I can't seem to get only one string without deadening the other string(s)., so I am wondering if I am approaching it all wrong. Thx
Three things that can be very helpful: (I've used these for years with beginning guitar and banjo students). l. Keep your fretting hand elbow out a bit from the front of your body while simultaneously curling your wrist to bring your fingers up onto their tips. Less interference with adjacent strings.
2. Experiment with laying the neck in the crook of your thumb and index finger at the web. Others prefer to keep their thumb on the back of the neck in line with the neck classical guitar style.
3. Try practicing while sitting at lst. More stable and easier to see what works and doesn't for you. Some people play with the pot in their laps between their legs. Others, most clawhammer players with the pot on one leg. This along with angling the neck or keeping it more horizontal all greatly influence getting up on and keeping up on your fingertips and other playing techniques.
Try #1 lst and stay concious of maintaining that position, short of painful wrist bending and let us know if it helps.
Oft asked question here on the HO. One thing to add - you may well need to sacrifice the nails on your fretting hand. I find that I need to cut my nails so that there is only about a 1/16" (less is better) of the white of the nail showing. And you may well find that you need to change the placement of your elbow and the angles of your wrist as you move up and down the fretboard. It's counter-intuitive, but early advice for me was to practice your full (4 finger) chord shapes up the neck where the frets are closer togther. Meanwhile you can play a lot of tunes with 2 finger chords down the neck (C on strings 1 and 2, D7 on strings 2 and 3). And if you play up the neck, like between frets 8 and 12, two (or 3) finger chords on strings 1 and 2 (and 3) work well there. And even easier, you can use barre chords.
Welcome to the HO. Lots of friendly people here to answer any of your questions.
You may be "strangling" the neck trying to get a clean, clear chord. That won't work and makes deadening the strings worse. As has been said above, try the various things and see what works best for you. For me, I have my thumb at the back of the neck, my wrist slightly arched over the fretboard and fret with my fingertips, getting as close to the fret as I can without touching it. Yes, short fingernails are necessary if you're going to fret a stringed instrument and make your fretting clean.
Sherry makes a good point - you'll be pleasantly surprised how little pressure it takes to fret cleanly - it's more about proper finger placment behind the fret than it is about the amount of pressure from your finger(s). It's something I have to think about (and sometimes intentionaly practice) often.