[Note: page updates for new assessment requirements in progress May 2018]
Since National 5 courses changed in 2017–18 to move completely to external assessment and Higher courses are doing the same in 2018–19, only National 4 and Advanced Higher retain the old mandatory unit requirements beyond summer 2018.
Minimum technical standards remain unchanged for all performing courses, so still ABRSM Grade 2 or equivalent for Nat 4, Grade 3 for Nat 5, Grade 4 for Higher and Grade 5 for Advanced Higher, and you’ll still need at least two pieces for each performing study (instrument or voice).
Performance (the skill) and Performing Skills (the unit name) mean what they say… basically learning to play/sing on two instruments (or one instrument and voice) and using the skills acquired to perform (in front of other people, video camera etc.) on them. While the Course Assessment requirements tell you what’s required for an overall course award at all levels and are all you really need to know for Nat 5 and Higher, separate units at Nat 4 and Advanced Higher currently still require you to ‘Perform music in a range of music styles by’:
(At National 4, from Music: Performing Skills (National 4) Unit Specification)
1.1 Developing musical and technical skills, showing an understanding of the composers’ intentions
1.2 Identifying strengths and areas for improvement in their performing
(At Advanced Higher, from Advanced Higher Music: Performing Skills Unit Specification)
1.1 Developing a range of advanced musical, interpretive and technical skills, showing clear understanding and sensitivity to the composers’ intentions.
1.2 Critically self-reflecting and evaluating the quality and accuracy of their performing and refining their performing and technical skills.
So the ‘performing’ part’s pretty obvious… you have to perform, and with greater musical accomplishment as well as more technical difficulty as you move up the levels. But separate unit specifications (where applicable) also ask you to evaluate your own performance with similarly increasing awareness. Your performances for these are assessed as pass or fail by the teacher, but your reflections on at least some of them are required for the unit pass. The SQA makes it quite clear that these should relate to technical and musical features and not your experiences, while also stressing that you’re required to reflect once on each performing study (instrument or voice) and suggesting that it’s good practice to do so for all of your performances.