Lots of good comments so far. I would just add that as a beginner it is hard to judge if a neg is to flat or to contrasty. If you want to get an impression if your development is in the right ballpark, get your camera and point it onto uniformly white or grey wall, piece of cardboard etc. *De*focus the lens. Make one exposure with the value your meter tells you when measuring that target (eg. 1/125, f 8 ), one with the lens closed down four stops (e.g 1/500 at f 16 ) and one with the lens opened three stops (e.g. 1/60 at f 4 ). Contact print this strip. Adjust the exposure in the darkroom that the overexposed frame is just discernible from unexposed white and adjust the gradation that the underexposed frame is just discernible from the clear film-base.

If the underexposed frame is not easily discernible from the film-base (on film), decrease you ASA-setting and start again. If you have to use a soft gradation to keep that frame discernible from the film-base (on paper) decrease development by 20% an start gain. If you need a hard gradation to get near-black increase development by 20%. If you get there with grad 2 or 3, you're fine.

Sounds more complicated than it is and can be done along the usual process of contacting printing for your record. It is *very* informative to have these three frames on every other film if you're not yet set with optimizing your exposure and development. Switching films and developers before you really get your feet wet with one combo is a slippery slope which distracts more from the creative parts of photography than some carefull crosschecks.

Wish I knew that when I started to work in the darkroom! Ooops, I start to sound like an old men here! Maybe it's time to face the truth