Getting the densities on the negative correct to suit your visualization of the end result is the most simplest and direct route to take to achieve your desired print. Other tonal adjustments such as paper grade (or variable cotrast filtration), paper developer, toning, etc...can be considered as integral to the refinements made in the printing. But IMO, the negative is your "bread and butter" so to speak, and how it is exposed and developed is key.